Friday, November 11, 2011

Clean Energy Jobs Need an Ocean Policy

A National Ocean Policy is vital to the economic and environmental health of the oceans and should be instated as soon as possible, according to Michael Conathan, director of Oceans Policy at the Center for American Progress.

His statement before the House Committee on Natural Resources lays it out in clear if not staid language. But it has to be said, and although policy is not nearly as exciting or dramatic as say, saving a sea turtle from a poacher's harpoon or throwing rancid butter at Japanese whaling ships, it is crucial.

It is about jobs and the "economic engine" of the oceans. Wind energy is a great example. 

The BBC reported that the installation phase alone of a 150-megawatt wind farm resulted in the creation of more than 800 jobs, according to Conathan. Furthermore, the Department of Energy has predicted that the build out of 54 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030 would result in the creation of 40,000 American jobs.

Cape Wind estimates that construction of its well-publicized 420-megawatt wind farm in Massachusetts will create between 600 and 1,000 jobs during the construction phase.

Yet other developed countries in the world are cruising ahead of us as investors in the US are slowed by a regulatory matrix as dense as cement. 

"Today European countries have installed nearly 3,000 megawatts of offshore wind facilities, and Europe and China combined have permitted more than 40,000 megawatts of wind turbines in their oceans. The United States has permitted exactly 488 megawatts, and we have yet to break ground on our first turbine," according to Conathan.

For ten years, the Cape Winds project has dealt with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Minerals Management Service (now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement, or BOEMRE), and other agencies, according to Conathan.

"Businesses simply will not invest in this industry until these issues are resolved. And until that investment comes, the employment opportunities these projects represent—in engineering, manufacturing, construction, transportation, maintenance, and other categories—will not be created."

The solution: a National Ocean Policy. As long as healthy oceans are given due consideration and respect, this is the future that we need.

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