Brainstorm Green

Washington's green jobs killing act

August 31, 2011: 5:00 AM ET

Lawmakers looking for sacrifices could wind up hurting one of the few industries that's hiring.

By Brian Dumaine, senior-editor-at-large

FORTUNE -- As Congress looks for things to cut, it's worth noting that green jobs are one of the few bright spots in otherwise dim economic news. The solar industry employed an estimated 93,000 workers in 2010, and that number is expected to reach 120,000 this year, according to the nonprofit Solar Foundation. The American Wind Energy Association reports that there are now 75,000 jobs in the wind industry. Many of the new jobs can be linked to various federal subsidies and tax credits that target renewable energy.

The Smartest People in Tech 2011

But now the ever-more-strapped Congress may let the subsidies and tax credits die, especially the Treasury's 1603 program that provides direct cash grants to alternative-energy projects -- and is due to expire at the end of 2011. Yes, the deficit must be addressed, but why cut federal programs that create jobs? Says Michael Eckhart, the global head of environmental finance and sustainability at Citigroup (C): "If the subsidies are killed, America is choosing not to grow a new industry and create jobs. If we don't want them, China, India, and Japan are happy to take them."

This article is from the September 5, 2011 issue of Fortune.

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