A Ten Megawatt Idea
New Jobs and Energy Independence
By Li Miao
San Francisco Apollo is planning to train roofers to install solar
panels. The Sierra Club is working with Apollo in Minnesota to develop
wind energy and make the state an energy exporter. In Baton Rouge,
members of the Club’s Delta Chapter stood on the capitol steps
alongside petrochemical plant workers to rally for clean jobs and
a clean environment.
a theme? The Apollo Alliance, a group of 17 U.S. and international
unions, environmental organizations, community groups, and businesses,
aims to revitalize the national economy through environmentally
sound development, and create millions of new jobs.
"The next wave is clean energy," says Apollo co-founder
Michael Shellenberger, "buildings that generate electricity
and clean the air." Shellenberger says that a national 10-year
investment of $30 billion annually—far less than what the
nation is spending on the Iraq war—could kickstart cutting-edge
advances in energy and mass transit, help rebuild decaying urban
centers, retrofit old buildings, develop renewable energy sources
and advanced technologies like hybrid cars. Not to mention America’s
economic global competitiveness, and reducing trade and budget deficits.
By retooling factories and stimulating growth in emerging industries,
Apollo will also help retain union jobs in the U.S. "There’s
a connection between highly skilled union workers and environmental
quality," says Apollo Alliance Executive Director Bracken Hendricks.
"The environmental community has been working a long time
on reducing dependence on oil and fossil fuels," says Sierra
Club Legislative Director Debbie Boger. "A lot of problems
can be solved with new technologies, and labor is interested because
it puts workers to work."
So where’s the mad stampede to embrace Apollo?
For starters, $30 billion dollars is a hefty piece of change. But
according to an independent analysis by the Texas-based Perryman
Group, over the next decade the United States would benefit from
an additional 1.35 trillion dollars in gross domestic product and
$280 billion dollars in energy savings under the Apollo Plan. "The
obstacles aren’t technical," says Hendricks. "All
it takes is political will."
The political will to adopt big structural solutions may be lacking
in Washington, D.C., but all over the country, Apollo is laying
the groundwork with local and regional efforts. Twenty-three projects
are being developed in 15 states so far, and Apollo is a natural
extension of partnerships already built by Sierra Club groups. In
Louisiana, for example, Club organizer Darryl Malek-Wiley is piggybacking
on existing relationships with labor unions to push for clean energy
"The New Apollo Project is all about where we’re going
with energy in America," he says. "It’s the vision
for the future."
In New York City, environmentalists and labor leaders envision
a future of solid-paying, high-skilled construction jobs in retrofitting
and new construction of "high performance" buildings that
require far less energy, allowing the city to reduce its dependence
on volatile Midwest and East Coast energy grids. "There is
a nationwide opportunity to substitute high-skill construction employment
for wasted energy resources," says Hendricks. "Energy
consumption could be cut by 20 to 30 percent by 2020."
On the opposite coast, unions and community and environmental groups
are formalizing a California Apollo Alliance. Convened by the California
Labor Federation, the effort received a recent boost when the California
state treasurer announced a "Green Wave" investment program
for CalPERS, the nation’s largest pension fund investor. Apollo
leaders are working with CalPERS to invest $1.5 billion in renewable
energy projects and clean energy jobs.
Under the state’s Renewables Portfolio Standard program,
20 percent of California’s electricity will come from renewable
sources of energy by 2017. The state Public Utilities Commission
is pushing to meet that goal as soon as 2010, and Apollo member
groups are aiding that effort. Like the national Apollo Alliance,
California Apollo has a strong Sierra Club presence. Regional Director
Carl Zichella sits on California Apollo’s executive committee,
and former Club president Adam Werbach has helped launch the Alliance’s
first local project, San Francisco Apollo.
Werbach sits on the city’s Public Utilities Commission, and
he envisions San Francisco becoming "the leading Apollo city
in the country." San Francisco voters approved a landmark $100
million bond in 2001 to support solar projects, fueling Apollo goals
toward renewable energy and job development.
"The challenge is to move as fast as the excitement is growing,"
For more information, go to www.apolloalliance.org.
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