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Patrick Springer, Published June 11 2009

"Green jobs" on the grow in North Dakota, Minnesota

North Dakota and Minnesota are among the states poised to benefit from the explosive growth in “green jobs” predicted by a new nationwide study.

Clean-energy jobs in the United States grew almost 9.1 percent from 1998 to 2007, almost three times faster than the 3.7 percent increase in all jobs during the decade, according to a report released Tuesday by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

In North Dakota, with a small but rapidly growing base of clean-energy jobs, including wind-power development, the increase was more dramatic during the period.

Clean-energy jobs rose by almost 31 percent, compared to the 9.4 percent increase in all jobs. The report documented 2,112 clean- energy jobs among 137 businesses.

“North Dakota’s clean-energy economy is just getting started, but it’s experiencing explosive growth,” said Carmen Miller, North Dakota representative for the Pew Environment Group.

Minnesota has a much larger clean energy sector supporting 19,994 jobs among 1,206 businesses, which attracted almost $50 million in venture capital funds.

Once again, clean-energy jobs in Minnesota significantly outpaced the growth in overall jobs from 1998 to 2007, 11.9 percent to 1.9 percent.

“I believe we’re just in the first inning of this growth,” David Prend, a director at the National Venture Capital Association, said of the growth in the clean energy economy. “We’re just getting started at this point.”

Support from the federal economic stimulus package and a host of state initiatives, including renewable energy requirements, will help fuel future growth in the clean energy sector, said Lori Grange, who directs research at the Pew Center on the States.

“This sector is poised for explosive growth,” she said.

Although North Dakota, which is seeing rapid growth in wind development, posted impressive gains in clean energy jobs, economic activity from fossil fuels still dominates.

For example, oil and gas accounted for 7,719 full-time jobs in 2007, and contributed direct economic impacts of $1.5 billion, according to figures from the North Dakota Petroleum Council.

Similarly, lignite coal and the coal-fired energy sector in North Dakota accounted for 4,074 direct jobs in 2008 and direct spending of more than $1 billion, according to the Lignite Energy Council.

Ethanol made from corn was not counted as a clean energy in the Pew report because of the intensive use of fertilizers and other chemicals.

Examples of clean-energy jobs

Construction workers, manufacturing workers, engineers, lawyers engaged in making equipment for wind farms, solar energy, or improving energy efficiency

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522