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Jobs Watch: A $129 million boost for green building

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Ben Jacklet
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Congressman David Wu has been working behind the scenes for more than a year with utility executives, green building experts and university leaders to boost federal support for green building innovations in Oregon. The $129 million proposal that has emerged from that work could build a sustainable foundation for an industry that stands out as one of the state’s few bright spots.

The proposal, which was submitted in May, calls for $129 million over five years to fund applied research into making buildings more efficient. If it wins approval from the U.S. Department of Energy, it would immediately boost research activity and create high-paying R&D jobs. It would also improve the long-term prospects for key Oregon businesses that have invested significantly in sustainable business practices, such as Gerding Edlen Development, ZGF Architects, the Neil Kelly Company, Portland Energy Conservation and Intel.

“The idea is to build a research base that will be immediately applicable to the entire country but also helps with our local energy efficiency industry,” Wu told me during an interview last Friday. “Companies like Gerding Edlen and ZGF, they’re already the leaders. That’s why we have such a strong application.”

Wu says competition will be intense for the federal money, with similar proposals coming from California, the Midwest and the Northeast.

“The Department of Energy will be the lead on this and [Energy Secretary Steven Chu] is very smart about energy. He wants transformative work to come out of this, and we have a very smart group locally that will do exactly that sort of work. Nobody else can touch us for local expertise. We already have a green construction sweet spot. Now we need the research component to support it.”

The grant money would support sustainability research under way at Pacific Northwest National Labs and at Oregon universities, where professors are already studying everything from energy-saving awnings to inserting wax into walls to improve HVAC efficiency. Portland State University in particular stands to gain significantly from the grant. A fresh influx of federal money would add to the momentum generated by the $25 million James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation sustainability grant, the largest private donation in the university’s history. Researchers at PSU are already studying groundbreaking new ways to make buildings greener, including compelling research into how to combine photovoltaic panels with green roofs to create electricity instead of using it and soak up rainwater instead of running it through pipes and unnecessarily flooding the system. Five years of research support would lead to countless other innovations, and eventually jobs as well.

There’s no guarantee that Wu’s green lab will beat out the competition. But the case he makes for Oregon is a strong one. The Department of Energy should make its final decision about where to funnel the money this fall.

Ben Jacklet is managing editor of Oregon Business.


0 #1 25,000 jobsBen 2010-06-11 10:48:19
UPDATE: The entire Northwest delegation has signed onto a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and SBA Administrator Karen Mills supporting the green building hub. Their letter predicts that the grant would support 25,000 direct and indirect jobs over five years and create new partnerships between researchers, small business owners and manufacturers.
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Stephan Brodhead
0 #2 More Earmarks?Stephan Brodhead 2010-06-17 08:20:55
Well since the federal government is broke and the 2010 federal deficit is $1.8 billion , this is just another campaign ploy on David Wu's behalf. I dont understand how David Wu can take campaign donations from a New York based window manufacturer, and then make like he supports Oregon business? The only legislation that David Wu has passed was renaming a Post Office. All the rest of his legislative behavior includes voting 100 percent Pelosi Party line, running up earmark debts, and passing the bill to our children. He did not listen to his district on health care. he did not listen to his district on "Cap and Trade". He is not listening to his district on "inappropriate earmark spending on our childrens credit card. He is more concerned with running errands for the president of Taiwan and sharing "Green technology" with foreign competitors than creating private sector jobs here in Oregon. In an ERA when federal government is spending twice hard revenue, and doubling the national debt in 4 years, David Wu has outlived his usefulness. Most of his earmarks have come from voting yes on the stimulus and passing the debt to our children. He wants to finance his earmark bribes to state run entities with wealth redistribution and hidden taxation on our seniors through "Cap and Trade". He is not business friendly, ownly federal or state entity friendly.No, David Wu is not business friendly. This is yet another plow to cast himself as a Green congressman. next week, he will share the information with the Taiwan manufacturing base. Its time we sent David Wu to a Taiwan paid lobbyist job, and removed him from government.
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Stephan Brodhead
0 #3 Creating 25,000 jobs?Stephan Brodhead 2010-06-17 08:44:40
First, tell me why we have to research energy efficiency when we already know how to be energy efficient? For instance, how about upping the wall insulation R19 standard to R30? How many houses have less than R8 in the walls? Just by insulating your house's ceiling and floors to current standards and installing Oregon made double pane windows will save 30 percent on a heating bill. Insulating exterior walls to R30, and installing on demand water heaters, and 95 percent efficient gas furnaces can cut a heating bill by 60 percent. With 200 years of natural gas reserves in the U.S., our focus should be on tax incentives for home owners not duplication of effort with education institutions. Researchers are now finding tha Afghanistan has the largets reserves of lithium in the world and could rival the Middle east as a world energy center. What we should be doing is raising the gas mileage standard and harvesting German technology on diesel hybrids that get 90 miles to the gallon or gas fired fuel cells that can heat a home and recharge hybrid batteries at 14 percent of current natural gas consumption. Why is all of David Wus earmarks directed to either his Democratic Socialist cronies, unions or state and federal entities? Why does David Wu's solutions to perceived issues always include padding state funded entities? Doesnt David Wu have faith in private enterprise and personal innitiative? Why does David Wu think the government is smarter and has all the answers? Doesnt David Wu have faith in the intelligence of the people that pay the taxes and pay his enormous salary? Why is David Wu seeking earmarks when the federal and state governments are inefficient and spend money like it is going out of style? Why is David Wu asking for earmarks when the federal government is on the verge of insolvency and financial collapse? Just as the CBO projections are padded and contrived, so too are david Wu's projections on jobs. All this press release serves is to exact free advertising and campaign exposure for David Wu. It is all contrived. It is all just a manipulation of free press to make him look good.
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