Federal investment in clean energy would create 20,000 new jobs: report

The federal government could create 18,000 jobs if it removed existing tax incentives for oil and gas companies, and invested the money instead in industries that reduce pollution, says a new report to be released Thursday by an alliance of labour and environmental groups.

The analysis immediately prompted an industry spokesman to respond by noting that oil and gas companies were responsible for hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs through private sector investments, while contributing billions of dollars to government coffers in tax revenues and royalty payments.

The industry's main lobby group, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, also said that subsidies for alternative forms of energy would not be economically responsible.

But the 30-page report - called More Bang for our Buck - based its estimates on previously published studies about the economic benefits of investments in energy efficiency, home retrofits, and emerging energy sectors such as wind and solar power.

It also quoted Alberta government statistics to make the case that existing tax incentives, estimated to be worth about $1.3-billion per year and described in internal federal government correspondence as subsidies, are responsible for up to about 2,900 jobs in the fossil fuel industry.

"Canada will continue to produce and use oil for some time to come, and that will have some economic benefits," said the report, co-signed by labour groups such as the United Steelworkers as well as environmental groups such as the Alberta-based Pembina Institute and Toronto-based Environmental Defence.

"But it's the wrong direction if we hope to tap into a growing share of the jobs and opportunity of the global transition towards renewable energy."

The estimates from the report include both direct and indirect jobs created by investments.

Scientific evidence published in peer-reviewed journals demonstrates that human activity is contributing to the planet's warming climate, mainly through land-use changes and the consumption of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal that produce heat-trapping pollution.

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/business/incentives+should+shift+alternative+energy+report/7593802/story.html#ixzz2DSQfGNJB

Published in the Toronto Star on Thursday November 22, 2012

If the federal government invested the $1.3 billion it gives the oil and gas industry annually in subsidies into clean energy, the cash injection would create nearly 20,000 new jobs across Canada, according to a report by an organization of unions and environmental groups.

Blue Green Canada hopes the report, to be released Thursday morning, will spark a serious discussion about a national green energy strategy going into the 2013 budget, said Mark Rowlinson, United Steelworkers assistant to the national director and president of Blue Green Canada.

“If you look at the federal government’s own economic reports, it’s becoming increasing tied to oil and gas exports,” he said. “We’re on this sort of natural resource roller-coaster.”

Discussion about how we equalize the effects of being so dependant on oil and gas need to happen with a focus on a green energy economy, he added.

“We understand that fossil fuel jobs are going to be here for some time, but we think a viable way to create good-paying manufacturing jobs across Canada is to invest in clean energy.”

The debate over oil and gas dependency centres around anti or pro environment, however, the discussion needs to be more about job creation in industries hit hard by soaring fuel prices, said Dave Coles, national president of the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers Union.

“Workers are being really left out of the national discussion,” he said. “It’s about profits and the economy, but there really hasn’t been any discussion around workers and jobs and this is problematic.”

Since 2006, more than 500,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost due to a strong Canadian dollar linked to oil and gas development.

“The current strategy of focusing on oil as our only economic driver, that’s where the federal government is wrong-headed,” said Gillian McEachern of Environmental Defense. “We have opportunity to create jobs on other industries.

“Yes, we’re going to continue to use oil for some time, but it’s the wrong direction to double down and invest in a rapid expansion in one industry, when instead we could be shifting to cleaner, less polluting sources.”

In 2011, $280 billion was invested in renewable energy globally, more than five times the amount spent in 2004, and the report argues Canada is missing the boat on tackling energy issues and climate change. Canada’s 2009 stimulus spending on clean energy was less than Saudi Arabia, China, Australia, France and the United States.

The sector is growing rapidly globally, McEachern added, “and we’re going to need to catch up with that at some point.”