The other day, Solve Climate News provided in-depth coverage of a small regional business story with global ramifications: a battery maker called Axion Power in the Rust Belt burgh of New Castle, Penn., announced plans to double the size of its factory, adding a dozen jobs to brings its total workforce to 74 in the process. The move will expand Axion’s manufacturing capacity to 1 million batteries per year from just 3,000; the company said this is but one step in a growth phase expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
A curious thing about Axion’s growth: it was the direct result of the introduction of an ambitious climate policy. In Europe.
Axion, you see, is in the business of making batteries for “micro-hybrid” vehicles — “conventional cars,” Solve Climate News explains, “that boost gas mileage by adding hybrid technologies” (as opposed to “full” hybrids like the Toyota Prius). And business for these micro-hybrids has taken off in the wake of the European Union’s stringent fuel emissions legislation, under which 65 percent of new cars sold next year must get at least 42 miles per gallon; by 2015, all new cars sold in Europe will have to meet this efficiency standard, and 57 mpg will be the mandatory minimum starting in 2020.
Like the proverbial Chinese butterfly’s flapping wings changing the weather in New York, a legislative body in Brussels issued an edict in 2009, and green-collar jobs are now emerging in the Rust Belt. There are more and more of these stories every week, and they speak to the transformative power and economic opportunity of the global shift to sustainable cleantech industries. Here’s another example from a month ago about an Ohio company making bolts for Danish wind turbines near Cleveland, Ohio — this in a jurisdiction whose governor is perhaps the most atavistic, change-averse State House overseer outside of Wisconsin.
The best way to look at those 12 new jobs making batteries in New Castle, then, is as the tiniest little trickle of a coming economic tidal wave. Were Pennsylvania or Ohio or any other American legislature to tear a page from Europe’s policy books, they could start looking a lot more like Germany, which has created 300,000 jobs in the renewable energy sector in the last 10 years through its revolutionary feed-in tariff. (If you’re unfamiliar with FITs, here’s German Green Party leader Hans-Josef Fell filling in the details in an interview with Thom Hartmann.
Instead of waiting on the flap of far-off wings, in other words, they could shed their fossil-fuel cocoons and become green-powered butterflies in their own right.