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Green Jobs 101

By Joe Romm

"Green Jobs 101"

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What is a green job?

Green jobs are living-wage, career-track jobs that contribute to preserving or enhancing environmental quality. They have some important characteristics:

Green jobs are today’s jobs repurposed and expanded in a low-carbon economy.

Diverse localities across the United States are already using green development strategies to make impressive strides in job creation, workforce development, and environmental stewardship. What’s more, the vast majority of jobs associated with the clean energy transition are in occupations that people already work in today, in every state and region of the country. For example, constructing wind farms creates jobs for sheet metal workers, machin┬Čists, industrial truck drivers, and engineers. Energy efficiency retrofits for buildings employ roofers, insulators, carpenters, building inspectors, and accountants. Expanding mass transit systems employs metal fabricators, electricians, dispatchers, and customer service representatives.

Clean energy creates more jobs than fossil fuels.

Renewable energy and efficiency improvements create twice as many jobs per unit of energy and per dollar invested than traditional fossil fuel-based generating technologies by redirecting money previously spent on wasted energy, pollution, and imported fuel toward advanced technology, modern infrastructure, and skilled labor.

Green jobs are local and difficult to outsource.

Reducing our dependence on imported and carbon-based energy sources will be a labor-intensive enterprise. Greening our economy involves transforming the places that we live and work, and the ways we get around. These jobs are impossible to offshore. Making buildings more energy efficient, constructing mass transit lines, installing solar panels and wind turbines, expanding public green space, growing and refining biofuels–all this work must take place right here in America, in both urban and rural areas. Moreover, deploying clean technologies and improving the efficiency of our energy infrastructure are local investments with a high level of domestic sourcing and large multiplier effect.

Green jobs are good, career-ladder jobs.

The transformation of our antiquated energy infrastructure can be the great engine for American innovation, productivity growth, and job creation in the coming decades. Green jobs will continue to expand exponentially if we make smart investments now. Importantly, green jobs pay family-supporting wages and provide opportunities for advancement along a career track. Green jobs encompass a wide breadth of skill sets, but most are middle-skill jobs accessible to all Americans given access to effective training and appropriate supports.

What can the federal government do to promote green jobs?

CAP recently conducted a study with the University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute, which determined that an immediate federal investment of $100 billion in energy efficiency and renewable technology could create 2 million jobs–nearly four times as many jobs as spending the same amount within the oil industry. Plus, these investments leverage the added benefits of improving the energy efficiency and environmental quality of our homes, cities, and rural communities, as well as creating new products for export.

Focused public investment in green infrastructure and efficiency can drive immediate spending into some of the hardest hit sectors of the economy, such as construction and manufacturing, and ensure that this infusion flows directly into job creation and domestic goods and services. Investing in a green economy will allow us to lay the groundwork for future prosperity and innovation by creating millions of new, well-paying green jobs, rather than devoting our resources to an old and unsustainable model based on the consumption of imported oil and polluting fossil fuels.

The Center for American Progress has identified stabilization, stimulus, recovery, and growth as the four steps needed to achieve long-term economic health. Each of these steps is an opportunity for smart public policy and investment decisions by the federal government to create new markets, industries, and green jobs in clean energy and energy efficiency. Higher levels of public investment will promote private sector productivity and higher rates of return for business.

Elected officials in Washington are preparing an immediate response to our unemployment, energy, and environmental challenges in the form of an economic stimulus plan that would marshal substantial federal dollars to support an influx of green infrastructure and workforce training. Clean energy and energy efficiency have a major role to play in the stimulus package precisely because such investments can quickly put people to work in jobs that are difficult or impossible to offshore, are labor intensive in sectors where unemployment is high, and reduce spending on energy and decrease oil use. The stimulus package should aspire to reach $100 billion in clean energy investments, in order to capture the potential to create a full 2 million new jobs in two years.

Download this fact sheet (pdf)

[Given be interested in reading jobs, I have reprinted this post from the Center for American Progress website.]

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16 Responses to Green Jobs 101

  1. PB says:

    Wait. John Stossel told America the other night that:
    - climate change is not man made
    - government can’t do anything about it anyways
    - we’re wasting our time

    I think John needs to find a job in the outgoing Bush administration or the AEI stat!

  2. nice post interesting ideas

  3. Dean says:

    “Clean energy creates more jobs than fossil fuels.”

    While politicians talk about creating more jobs, much of the “powers that be” would prefer capital-intensive over labor-intensive because it helps keep labor costs low. They also think that capital doesn’t go on strike, though recent events bring that into question.

  4. Jeff Young says:

    Joe,

    Where would this fit in the “green jobs” scheme?

    “Prisoners to Make Solar Cells”

    Read all about it:
    http://www.masshightech.com/stories/2008/12/08/daily4-Prisoners-to-make-solar-cells-under-54M-Spire-deal.html

  5. paulm says:

    I think St Nick sounds depressed here…

    Climate expert says he underestimated threat
    Nicholas Stern
    http://uk.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUKGOR65702120080416?sp=true

    “Emissions are growing much faster than we’d thought, the absorptive capacity of the planet is less than we’d thought, the risks of greenhouse gases are potentially bigger than more cautious estimates, and the speed of climate change seems to be faster,” he told Reuters at a conference in London.

  6. Rick says:

    now theres an idea – employ prisoners in green tech production.

    seriously good idea. there are huge numbers of these guys. give them time credits for work done and teach them how to do something other than break and enter for when they get out. money made could offset some prison costs.

    have OJ build your solar panels.

  7. paulm says:

    Why give good jobs to criminals when others are queuing up for work?

  8. llewelly says:

    now theres an idea – employ prisoners in green tech production.
    seriously good idea. there are huge numbers of these guys. give them time credits for work done and teach them how to do something other than break and enter for when they get out. money made could offset some prison costs.

    The majority are in there for selling or using drugs. I agree we need more and better job training for prisoners, as it greatly reduces recidivism. However – jobs for non-prisoners will put a lot more money into the economy, especially in the short term. Finally, given what prisoners are typically paid, and the fact that they live in highly controlled conditions, introduces the risk of undue coercion.

    As a PR issue, work for prisoners is also unpopular. There are many Americans who feel the only response to criminals should be injury and rejection. It’s an error that increases recidivism, but it’s a popular error, and it makes it hard to sell any kind of work that might help prisoners.

  9. David B. Benson says:

    Well, the national forests here in the west are amess and seriously need brushing out — removing the understory. Thgis is labor intensive and good outdoor work. Fund the forestry service enough to put people to work (temporarily) doing this.

    Looks to be ‘green’ jobs to me.

  10. Jim Bullis says:

    Let me first say that I think our excessive energy use is appalling. However, perhaps we should not over react.

    I accept the data from Univ of Colorado showing that sea levels are rising about 50 mm per 20 years. In a hundred years that works out, using very high math, to .25 meters or about 10 inches. Has anyone talking about this stuff ever been to the beach?

    Maybe someone could explain why tides that swing plus and minus 5 feet in most places and sometimes quite a lot more will be that much affected by 10 inches, which will happen in 100 years. Somehow I have a hard time thinking this should cause panic and drive us into civil disobedience or armed conflict.

    I am more concerned by ice melting problems, though the implications of that are not so easily understood. No, don’t tell me a Northwest Passage is a bad thing.

    I need to be convinced that this is a panic rather than a 100 year engineering problem. I might easily agree that we are capable of failing to solve even a 100 year problem.

  11. Jim Bullis says:

    (continuation)

    Oh yes, I have read the IPCC4 thing and did not get quite the sense of urgency or certainty that some seem to have.

    A short entry there even allowed that increased CO2 could result in more rapid plant growth, but this was not pursued further than this comment, at least as far as I could understand.

    On my own, I continue to puzzle why a longer growing season might not stimulate faster growth of the Boreal forests, and if we don’t screw that up by mowing them down to make cellulosic ethanol, maybe that would help slow down global warming.

  12. David B. Benson says:

    Jim Bullis — IPCC AR4 is a concensus document. Since then it is already demonstrated to be to consevative in the sense of underestimating various climate impacts. For example, a recent study states that sea level rise by the end of the century will be at least 80 cm (most likely) but possibly as much as 2 m (unlikely). The Dutch are planning on about 1.5 m by then (plus of course highest high tide plus storm surge).

    Kudzu is a good example of a plant which thrives with hgher CO2; many benefical plants do not.

  13. Michele Moretti says:

    The United States of Incarceration supplies about 5% of the world’s population and 25% of its prisoners (now over 2 million people). Most are minorities (many non-violent drug offenders), who are cycled through the system, and trained for nothing useful. Once released into society, they often re-offend, contributing to high recidivism rates.

    While incarcerated, they are literally a “captive audience.” Many (perhaps not all) of could be trained in exactly the green-collar jobs Van Jones advocates. Using in-house labor and training, existing prison facilities could be retrofitted by newly trained inmates. In theory, offenders would re-enter society with marketable, in-demand skill sets, and hopefully, a sense of enfranchisement (vs. disenfranchisement), which would mitigate chances of recidivism, and help plug a huge economic hole created by mass incarceration and its deleterious effects on surrounding communities. See Todd R. Clear, Imprisoning Communities: How Mass Incarceration Makes Disadvantaged Neighborhoods Worse, Oxford University Press, June, 2007.

  14. Jim Bullis says:

    David B. Benson, thanks for the update.

    My estimate of 10 inches was based only on a linear extrapolation of the last 20 years, as shown on a recent post here at this site. This was the evidence under discussion here.

    I was particularly reacting to the call to “civil disobedience” which was under discussion at another close by post.

    In any case, there is a solution based on simple non-use of energy. Building insulation is certainly a strong part of this, and fortunately it seems to be getting some degree of recognition. My approach to personal transportation could have a much greater impact at minimal cost, though this efficient car system seems to be beyond serious consideration. Similarly, distributed cogeneration of electricity based on the low powered car systems would also have a major impact. These are what I think of as engineering solutions which would have the effect of cutting demand for both oil and coal in a way that there would be no need for conflict.

  15. Using in-house labor and training, existing prison facilities could be retrofitted by newly trained inmates. In theory, offenders would re-enter society with marketable, in-demand skill sets, and hopefully, a sense of enfranchisement (vs. disenfranchisement), which would mitigate chances of recidivism, and help plug a huge economic hole created by mass incarceration and its deleterious effects on surrounding communities.