06/12/2009 - I am as excited about the rise of the green-tech industry as the next Silicon Valley geek. Deploying our financial and engineering resources to address one of humanity's most pressing problems represents the valley's innovative spirit at its best.
But lately, this dynamic industry seems to be losing some steam. SunPower suffered a rough first quarter this year as the financial crisis crimped sales. At the same time, the venture capital industry beat a hasty retreat from investing in this sector, which had been the leading category of venture capital last year.
And with state and federal governments swimming in red ink, there are genuine concerns about whether taxpayers can be asked to fund the investments in research and tax credits that would all help kick-start the green-tech sector.
There are plenty of good moral and environmental arguments to be made about why now is not a time to retreat in supporting this industry. But given the state of the economy, perhaps the more compelling argument is the economic one, and at just at the right time, the Pew Charitable Trusts delivered an evenhanded report last week that examines in detail the impact on jobs this industry has had in just a short time.
"The Clean Energy Economy: Repowering Jobs, Businesses and Investments Across America," finds that from 1998 to 2007, this nascent industry accounted for 770,000 new jobs. While that may sound tiny in a U.S. economy with 140 million jobs, already is more than the biotechnology sector (200,000) and gaining on employment in the traditional energy sector (1.27 million).
More important, for that decade, green-tech jobs grew by 9.1 percent, compared with only 3.7 percent for overall job growth. Granted, it's from a much lower base, but it's still an impressive start.
Read the full article Now is Not the Time to Retreat from Green Tech on the San Jose Mercury News' Web site.