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Report: Portrait of Clean Energy Jobs Amid Election-Year Landscape

Second quarter clean energy jobs estimates have been released, and some of the biggest gains are expected to come in swing states where energy promises to emerge as a central election year topic.

According to a report from Environmental Entrepreneurs — a group of business leaders who advocate on behalf of policy that shapes the economic and environmental landscape — 70-plus major projects announced during the second quarter could create more than 37,000 clean energy jobs.

California (16 projects announced with 20,879 possible jobs), Florida (3 projects, 7,375 jobs) and New York (3 projects, 1,408 jobs) could stand to gain the most from this new round of hires. The rest of the top 10 includes Michigan (9 projects, 1,319 jobs), Colorado (2 projects, 1,100 jobs), Ohio (4 projects, 712 jobs), New Jersey (2 projects, 600 jobs), Illinois (4 projects, 542 jobs), Nebraska (1 project, 500 jobs) and Mississippi (1 project, 426 jobs).

Of the three leaders, only Florida is considered a swing state, and its 29 electoral votes are central to campaign strategies for both President Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney. Clean energy, though, isn’t likely to become a major driver of votes in Florida over the coming months. But it could in places like Colorado, Ohio and Michigan, where much of the campaign will be fought.

Michigan voters will be deciding on the adoption of a more aggressive state RPS while Ohio has moved strongly to become a key clean-energy manufacturing leader in the Rust Belt. In Colorado, the soon-to-expire Production Tax Credit has loomed as a defining election year issue. The main criticism coming from wind advocates is to pending loss of jobs.

We’ve already seen Vestas scale back its operations in the state, and far bigger layoffs are likely if Dec. 31 passes with no deal in place. According to the E2 report, the wind industry has already seen a major slowdown in job creation. In the first quarter of 2012, E2 tracked more than 9,100 jobs expected from the announcement of 31 wind generation projects. In the second quarter, just 12 new projects were announced and about 2,300 jobs are expected to be created.

“The good news is that despite the challenging economic and political environment, the clean energy industry is still creating badly needed American jobs all across the country,” said Judith Albert, executive director of Environmental Entrepreneurs. “The bad news is that the threats to the wind industry because of uncertainty over the Production Tax Credit are very real, and are already taking its toll on job creation in that sector.”

The issue of jobs and clean energy will continue to become an election year battleground, and it’s one that is often blurred along party lines. The Romney campaign is making jobs and the economy its main rallying cry, yet he says the PTC should not be extended. Obama, meanwhile, is touting his clean energy policy while working to distance himself from the DOE loan guarantee program that has snared his administration in a series of bankruptcies and bad PR — even though the utility-scale generation supported by that program is creating jobs.

Regardless of where the presidential candidates fall on the debate, clean energy could figure prominently at local polling places as well. According to E2, the projects they tracked for the second quarter are divided fairly between Democratic-controlled districts (35) and districts held by Republicans (31). Nine projects spanned districts that were represented by both Democrats and Republicans.

Lead image: Classifieds via Shutterstock

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