On Monday, the USA Today’s Gregory Korte promoted Republican attacks on President Obama’s green jobs training initiative, citing anti-clean-energy leader Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and a flawed report by the Department of Labor Inspector General. The report was debunked when it was released months ago for questionable methodology and improper metrics. Despite relentless attacks fueled by the fossil fuel industry, the clean energy economy employs 2.7 million Americans and is one of the most rapidly growing sectors of the economy.
Kate Gordon, the vice president of energy policy at the Center for American Progress, responded to the IG report and its promotion in the Wall Street Journal last October. Her response is just as valid today.
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 Inspector General 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 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.
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 the 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.