MANHASSET, N.Y. Duke University researchers predicted in a report that U.S. manufacturing is poised to grow in a low-carbon economy.
Highlighting the direct linkages between low-carbon technologies and U.S. jobs the "Manufacturing Climate Solutions" study provides a detailed look at manufacturing jobs that already exist and would be created when the United States takes action to limit global warming.
"Until now, there was no tangible evidence of what the jobs are, how they are created and what it means for U.S. workers," said Gary Gereffi, a Duke professor of sociology and lead author of the report, in a statement. "We don't guess where the jobs are; we name them. Our report uses value chains to show that clean technology jobs are also real economy jobs."
Duke researchers assess five carbon-reducing technologies with potential for future green job creation. Among the five are LED lighting and concentrating solar power.
Gereffi, who heads the research at Duke's Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness, said that there are hidden economic opportunities within the supply chains that provide parts and labor for the five industries.
The report breaks down the supply chains and maps the location of companies positioned to support green jobs. States that stand to benefit most from jobs in these sectors include Arizona, California, Indiana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
"It's concrete evidence of the link between U.S. jobs and climate solutions," said Jackie Roberts, director of sustainable technology at the Environmental Defense Fund, one of the report's sponsors.
"To succeed, from production to construction, these green investments [need to be] made in the United States. That is the best way to assure that their positive ripple effects are felt throughout the entire economy," said Bob Baugh, executive director of the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council, another one of the report's sponsors.
In an ad hoc survey on eetimes.com, respondents expressed different views their strategy for riding out the economic downturn. While the highest percentage (48 percent) said they would be laying low and stay put, 10 percent responded that they would seeking opportunities in another sector and another 11 percent would launch new engineering projects.
Specifically, LED lighting products, one of the five technologies analyzed in this report, is in a quandary. The technology occupies a small but fast-growing segment of the global lighting industry. LED technology uses manufacturing techniques embedded in the semiconductor industry, in which much of the manufacturing occurs in Asia.
However, U.S. firms can play a crucial role in developing and manufacturing the next generation of LED lighting products. Many LED products, especially the vital LED chips, rely on breakthrough technologies and require particularly high quality standards, indicating a preference for manufacturing close to home, conclude the researchers.
This is important in a global economy where, as each new technology eventually stabilizes and the scale of production expands, the manufacturing base often moves to less expensive mass operations overseas.
The U.S. Energy Department has supported U.S. research and development and by establishing labeling and standards. According to Morgan Pattison, a technology consultant to the DOE Solid State Lighting Research program, the vital question is: "Will the quality domestic and Japanese manufacturers of high-brightness LEDs be able to bring costs down before the lower-end manufacturers in Taiwan and China can bring performance up?"
An excellent example is North Carolina-based Cree Inc., which has become a global leader in high-quality, high-brightness LEDs, rolling out frequent innovations and continuing to manufacture domestically. Cree's success in this environment highlights an important link between innovation and the continued viability of U.S. manufacturing jobs, says the report.
President-elect Barack Obama's proposed economic plan called for creating 5 million jobs in environmental industries. "Green collar" jobs present the next frontier for U.S. manufacturing, according to the Duke report.