Good Thing For Green Tech? GE Chief, Jeff Immelt, To Chair Obama's Council On Jobs

On Friday, President Obama appointed General Electric’s chief executive, Jeff Immelt — an advocate for carbon cap-and-trade — chairman of his panel of outside economic advisors, the newly branded Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

This council was formerly known as PERAB (the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board). Immelt was a founding member, and takes the chairman reigns from Paul Volcker.

GE is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of clean energy and related technologies. The company makes everything from large wind turbines, to electric vehicle charging stations, to good old lights and appliances.

Could the rising political influence of Jeff Immelt (image, below) be a good thing for green innovators in the U.S.? Could clean tech newcomers, small businesses and competitors suffer from policy endorsed by the CEO of the established giant?

The Christian Science Monitor’s Mark Trumbull reported:

“[Immelt’s selection] opens the door to potential conflicts of interest. GE’s future profits are intertwined with government policies in the US and elsewhere. It makes equipment used in energy, infrastructure, health care, and defense. On Wednesday, when Obama sang the praises of export-related contracts that US firms have won in China recently, GE deals figured prominently. [While] economists say growing exports – for GE and other firms – are one vital way for the US to grow jobs…Even in a best-case scenario for exports, America will need lots of other jobs, as well.

Some business leaders worry that an expected move by the Environmental Protection Agency to limit carbon emissions could impose damaging costs on the economy.”

Noting GE’s plans to develop a net-zero home with solar and wind power, its competition for clean tech startups and inventors, Ecomagination, and its recent efforts to put small wind turbines in homes and businesses, CleanTechnica contributor Tina Casey saw Immelt’s role as a good thing for all that’s green and clean in the U.S. She even defended his company’s earlier habit of outsourcing jobs, copiously:

“The initial reaction to President Obama’s announcement has been mixed, mainly due to GE’s past record of outsourcing jobs. However [since] 2009 you’ll find Immelt admitting that too much outsourcing… hurt the U.S. economy, and calling for a domestic manufacturing revival to get us out of the doldrums. That puts him squarely in line with Obama’s call for an economy ‘fueled by what we invent and what we build…'”

President Obama gushed about Immelt in a weekly address on Saturday:

“…GE’s CEO [is] one of the most imaginative and visionary business leaders in America. [He] has agreed to head up our new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. The purpose of this council is to help us find ways to grow our economy by investing in our businesses here at home. And under Jeff’s leadership, I’m confident that they’ll generate good ideas about how we can spur hiring, educate our workers to compete in the 21st century, and attract the best jobs and businesses to America rather than seeing them spring up overseas.”

Check out the rest of the president’s remarks on Immelt, and let us know if you think he’s the right man for the job(s) and a good thing for green sector innovation.

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