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Jun 11, 2009

Dallas Morning News: Texas takes high rankings in Pew clean energy study

By ELIZABETH SOUDER / The Dallas Morning News (esouder@dallasnews.com)

Texas had more clean energy jobs than every other state except California and garnered more clean energy venture capital investment than most in 2007, according to a study by Pew Charitable Trusts.

The study, released Wednesday, shows that 55,646 people were employed in the clean energy industry in Texas. That’s a large chunk of the 770,385 clean energy jobs nationwide. Researchers attributed Texas’ success to state policies that create incentives and mandates for clean energy.

“The Texas clean energy economy is poised for incredible growth,” said Pew researcher Kil Huh on a conference call Wednesday.

Pew researcher Phyllis Cuttino said, “Despite the state being an oil-producing state, it has engaged in policies that are going to grow these other sectors of the economy, which we would applaud.”

She said the only major clean energy policy missing in Texas is restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions.

The report comes as officials in Texas debate whether lawmakers have done enough to attract those clean energy jobs.

“There are literally millions of jobs that will be created for renewable energy, advanced batteries, next-generation biofuels, and energy efficiency, and unfortunately, Texas is missing out,” said Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, in a statement Wednesday.

He asked the governor to call a special legislative session to address the clean energy industry.

Gov. Rick Perry has pointed to Texas’ growth in wind energy capacity as an indication of success in the clean energy sector. Texas has more wind energy capacity than any other state, according to a 2009 American Wind Energy Association report, and is building power lines to support even more.

At the same time, he has warned Washington politicians that greenhouse gas regulations would kill jobs and economic growth here because of the large fossil fuel industry.

In 2008, the oil and natural gas industry contributed 16.5 percent of Texas’ gross state product and employed 367,967 people, dwarfing the clean energy industry’s numbers .

Still, according to the Pew study, Texas has attracted more jobs and investment than most states. The state was No. 3 in terms of venture capital investment in clean energy, behind California and Massachusetts.

Pew counted jobs in five categories: clean energy production, energy efficiency, environmentally friendly production, conservation and pollution mitigation, and training and support.

Conservation and pollution mitigation accounts for the largest number of jobs now, but the environmentally friendly production and clean energy production categories are growing at a faster clip, the study says.

Pew shows that the jobs aren’t just temporary construction work but include lots of permanent positions, as well as high-income jobs.

“Workers from all walks of life and diverse professional backgrounds are the engine of the clean energy economy. Plumbers, machinists, scientists, engineers, bankers and marketing consultants all contribute to it – with annual incomes ranging from approximately $21,000 to $111,000,” the study says.

The study concludes that greenhouse gas regulations would create even more jobs, as energy companies develop low-carbon energy sources. But the study doesn’t show whether the jobs might come at the expense of fossil fuel positions.