400,000 Jobs or Bust. Or Both.

There’s an interesting juxtaposition nowadays between the grim economic/public funding forecasts and the eye-popping estimates of job growth in the “green-collar” economy…at least in the ever-optimistic Golden State.

Given the current meltdown in the capital markets, there is understandable fear that investment in renewable energy and carbon-reducing technology will be nipped in the bud. Recent articles in the New York Times and Times of London reflect the new angst.

But against this backdrop of doom, predictions are popping out all over about the coming economic boom, if we can somehow stay the course toward a low-carbon economy. This week number-crunchers at UC Berkeley issued the bold declaration that through energy efficiency alone, California can add 403,000 new jobs. David Roland-Holst and his colleagues assume a scant 1% annual improvement in overall energy efficiency, in order to get there. And by the way, they say, you can pencil an extra $76 billion in gross state product into the bargain. We’ll be spending so much less to light, heat, cool, and move us around, that it will free up billions of dollars and an outbreak of general prosperity will ensue. Sound like Pollyanna gone wild? The authors say we’ve done it before.

A recent economic analysis by the California Air Resources Board predicted that full implementation of the sweeping Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (CA AB-32) would add 100,000 jobs by 2020. The astute reader might wonder how, since energy efficiency is just one facet of AB-32, can the Berkeley number be so much higher. The answer, according to Roland-Holst, is that the Air Board estimate is “innovation-neutral.” In other words, it assumes that nothing new is invented on the efficiency front.

Hear more details as KQED’s Peter Jon Shuler speaks with  Roland-Holst about his methodology.