Meanwhile, American Petroleum Institute Chief Economist says: “Anybody dismissing any type of job is silly.”
by Kate Gordon
Another day, another attack on the growing and popular clean energy sector.
You would think that renewable energy and energy efficiency companies actually creating jobs during a recession would be something to celebrate, not something to disparage. You’d think that the public’s strong support of clean energy programs — including the 62 percent of Americans who specifically support public investment in clean energy jobs — would help to immunize these firms from attack.
But you’d be wrong. Witness today’s Wall Street Journal story, “Green Jobs Brown Out,” which repeats all the same old and misleading criticisms of green jobs and government support of job growth in these critical industries. Let’s take the story apart piece by piece:
“Three years ago President Obama promised that by the end of the decade America would have five million green jobs.”
Actually, the President promised that if America would take strong actions to move the economy from a volatile, fossil fuel-driven path to a low-carbon energy path – actions including passing an economy-wide cap and trade program, implementing a national renewable energy standard, and investing $15 billion/year over ten years – we could create five million jobs in the clean energy sector. The problem? We haven’t passed any of those critical policies, meaning that carbon still doesn’t have a price, and so low-carbon technologies are competing on a playing field heavily skewed toward “cheap” and dirty resources.
Oh, and by the way, ten years hasn’t passed yet.
“The [Department of Labor green jobs training] program was supposed to train 125,000 workers, but only 53,000 have been “trained” so far, only 8,035 have found jobs, and only 1,033 were still in the job after six months.”
Where to start with this? First, as our friends at Green For All point out, the numbers themselves are misleading. The report identifies only those workers that have already been fully trained, not those who are currently going through training programs or who are about to enter into programs funded by the DOL grants. The proper question to ask is how much of the funding for this program has been obligated, not how much has already been spent, and then how many workers will be trained through all the programs receiving funds.
It is also important to remember that nearly 40 percent of those trained through these programs were incumbent workers, meaning workers who already had jobs but who were receiving additional training to become more skilled, and therefore more valuable in the labor market. Looking at placements alone ignores those critical workers.
Finally and most important, the report, and the WSJ reporting of it, ignores a central fact that must be mentioned whenever we talk about any job training program: We are in a severe economic slowdown and 14 million people are still out of work! If there were jobs to be had, perhaps these trained individuals could be hired to fill them.
On the other hand, the DOL program has provided thousands of workers, many of them low-income, with new and valuable skills so they are better prepared to enter the labor market when more jobs are available.
And let’s not forget that 8,000 people did find jobs as a result of the green job training programs. That’s 8,000 people who did not have a job before they were trained. As the Chief Economist of the American Petroleum Institute said in today’s Washington Post, “Anybody dismissing any kind of a job is silly.”
The bottom line is that we haven’t done the work, as a country, to pass the policies and programs that will put us on a focused path toward cleaner electricity and fuels. Until we commit to that path, clean energy businesses will continue to face major market uncertainty; workers will continue to try and fail to find good jobs in the green economy; and our country will continue to fall behind in the global clean energy race.
— Kate Gordon is the vice president of energy policy at the Center for American Progress.