There was no shortage of suggestions when the National Clean Energy Summit convened in Las Vegas last month to contemplate how to build a new clean-energy economy and create millions of so-called green jobs along the way.
Among the most popular proposals, despite skepticism in some quarters, was a call to create construction, manufacturing and administrative jobs through a building-retrofit program.
"The low-hanging fruit is the simplest but least sexy thing, fixing what we are doing now and becoming more efficient," former President Bill Clinton told conference participants Aug. 10.
Retrofitting buildings with energy-efficient lighting, windows, insulation or climate-control systems, for instance, could put Americans back to work in the industries hardest hit by the economic downturn, according to a report released recently by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for American Progress, a public-research group headed by Clinton's former chief of staff, John Podesta.
About 1.6 million U.S. construction workers are without jobs, or 17 percent of the total construction workforce. The number reaches 25 percent in some of the hardest-hit areas of the country, such as California and Arizona. Additionally, 2 million U.S. manufacturing workers are unemployed, 12 percent of that workforce.
The report, titled "Rebuilding America," contends that if the United States committed to retrofitting just 40 percent of its commercial and residential building stock -- or 50 million buildings -- in 10 years, it can create 625,000 permanent jobs.
Among the possibilities are jobs weatherizing homes, manufacturing and installing smart energy meters, building new transmission lines and upgrading mass-transit systems.
But not everyone is convinced, especially when it comes to the White House-backed American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. The bill, which the House passed in June but awaits Senate approval, calls for, among other things, capping emissions and increasing energy efficiency in buildings, home appliances and electricity generation.
But the Heritage Foundation, a conservative public-policy think tank in Washington, D.C., said the proposed legislation, also known as the Waxman-Markey Bill, would be a jobs killer.
"Contrary to claims of an economic boost from green investment and green jobs creation and postage stamp costs, the Waxman-Markey energy bill does the complete opposite by increasing energy prices," claims a recent foundation report.
"Waxman-Markey would have severe consequences, including skyrocketing energy costs, millions of jobs lost, and falling household income and economic activity, all for negligible changes in global temperature."
David Kreutzer, a senior policy analyst for energy economics and climate change at the Heritage Foundation, told ABC News, "Whatever jobs he [President Barack Obama] creates will come at the cost of even more jobs."
But Kreutzer admitted that he had not analyzed how many jobs could be created in the new-energy sector to offset any job losses resulting from the bill.
The Center for American Progress report calls for the proposed energy bill to support the creation of new jobs to offset losses in other energy sectors, such as the coal industry, through financing, job training and easier access to energy-retrofit programs.