The green jobs debate rages on. Some argue that all the stimulus money being poured into green efforts - like renewable energy and building retrofitting – will create millions of new jobs, and will revitalize the economy. Others are not so sure. The latest opinion to be voiced comes out of the Institute for Energy Research, which just published a study challenging the rosy predictions of people like the Center For American Progress (who predicted that $100 billion worth of green investment would create 2 million jobs).
One criticism is that the term “green job” is ill defined. This is certainly true, although the root of the problem is that “green” is pretty ill defined to begin with. There is no “green” sector – all sectors of our economic infrastructure are part of the problem, and fixing all of those parts will have to be part of the solution. And so, a construction worker weatherizing a house has a green job just as much as a solar energy technician.
And so it is difficult to make predictions in the first place, let alone specific numbers like 2 million. But the IER also points out that for all the new jobs that will be created when we start building wind turbines, we will lose jobs at coal power plants. In fact, the impact will go far beyond just the power sector. People talk about how the economy needs to be “restructured”; to be blunt, “restructuring” means that a lot of industries that people depend on to put food on their table will become discouraged, and eventually useless.
In his book “Hot, Flat and Crowded”, Thomas Friedman writes:
But whenever I hear that “we’re having a green revolution” line I can’t resist firing back: “Really? Really? A green revolution? Have you ever seen a revolution where no one got hurt?”
In other words, change is exciting, but it runs the risk of causing some people, communities and industries to fall through the cracks. At the same time, although there is a desperate need for a whole new generation of technicians, engineers, mechanics, and other skilled professionals to build and tend to tomorrow’s PV and solar thermal power plants, electric car and lithium-ion battery factories, ethanol and biodiesel factories, etc. – are there enough people with the necessary skills to fill those roles?
A hopeful way to look at the situation is to say: Why not teach all the people who will lose jobs in fossil fuel, or carbon-emitting sectors to work in new, green sectors. I was, personally, very excited when I read that $500 million of stimulus money was going into education for green jobs. Education is important, to provide opportunities both for mid-career professionals who want to make the transition into green, and for entry-level professionals who have their entire career to contribute, innovate and develop.
With Van Jones as President Obama’s new unofficial Green Job Guru, there is a good chance that training and education will become cornerstones of coming green job policies. Jones believes in such training, especially for workers in poorer communities. Seeing as he wrote the book on the subject (The Green Collar Revolution), I’d imagine there’s no one better to push the agenda in Washington.
Via Green Inc, Greentech Media
written by Imee, March 17, 2009
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