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Guest: Creating jobs with a green national WPA program

BY JOHN MACATEE - GUEST OPINION | DECEMBER 16, 2009 7:30 AM

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American citizens, economists, political and business leaders, and you are deeply concerned about the high levels of unemployment in the United States, currently one in 10 Americans. President Obama and other national leaders are actively seeking new ideas to create jobs though the president has cautioned that “our resources are limited.”

I recommend the creation of a green national Works Progress Administration program to reduce our nation’s unemployment and at the same time make the United States more energy efficient. President Franklin Roosevelt created the WPA in 1935, and it employed millions to carry out public-works projects, including the construction of buildings and roads, the feeding and distribution of food, clothing, and housing, and the creation of large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects.

Most people who needed a job were eligible for at least some of its jobs. It strongly emphasized training new job skills. Between 1935 and 1943, the WPA provided almost 8 million jobs. Such a program should be created right now in projects to increase energy efficiency and sustainability throughout our country and provide jobs for many of the millions of Americans who are jobless.

An extensive green WPA program could be effectively used to make all of our buildings energy-efficient. Obama’s “cash for caulkers” proposal embodies this idea. New buildings can be constructed to use less energy using concepts and technologies now readily available as super-efficient insulation, natural day lighting and ventilation, reduced water use, and more efficient lighting. Energy-efficient buildings which meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards have lower operating costs and are healthier, more functional, and more pleasant to live and work in.

If we invest in making all of our buildings energy efficient, we could simultaneously:

• Provide good jobs for millions of people in the development, production, and installation of energy-efficient technologies and materials for buildings in the United States and exportation of these green building technologies and products to other countries.

• Reduce carbon emissions and global warming.

• Decrease the need to import foreign oil and gas.

• Reduce our trade deficit and strengthen our economy.

• Prevent money spent by the United States on foreign oil and gas from falling in the hands of petrodictators as the rulers of Saudi Arabia.

A green national WPA program could also help provide jobs to help produce more energy-efficient cars and trucks. Many of these jobs would require high skill levels and would not be outsourced. If we invest in energy-efficient vehicles and plug-in hybrid cars, as well as wind-generated electricity and the electrical grids to support them, the United States could cut its gasoline use. All we would have to do is replace our present vehicles with more energy-efficient and affordable gas-electric hybrid cars or plug-in electric hybrid cars.

A green national WPA program would provide jobs, preserve our environment, and help stabilize global climate change all at the same time. Renewable energy is homeland security.

John Macatee is an Iowa City resident.


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