Thursday, 25 November 2010

A Green Jobs Primer -- by Bracken Hendricks, Andrew Light, Benjamin Goldstein, John Podesta

This analysis originally appeared on the Centre for American Progress website: 6 Apr 2009 and 9 Sep 2008.

Our country faces two immense, interrelated challenges: Charting a course to economic recovery and tackling the threat of global warming. Both are moral imperatives…. Meeting these challenges head on now and into the future is straightforward—begin a robust and aggressive transition towards a clean energy economy. Building the green economy will also create millions of new green jobs, offering hope to many Americans who are out of work or facing possible layoffs.

1. What is a green job?

The short answer: Green jobs enhance environmental quality, build a vibrant clean energy economy, and help to expand the American middle class.

The long answer: Green jobs are today’s jobs but repurposed and expanded to build a sustainable low-carbon economy. Most green jobs will be in occupations that people already work in today. Constructing wind farms creates jobs for sheet metal workers and industrial truck drivers. Energy efficiency retrofits for buildings employ roofers and insulators. And expanding mass transit systems employs electricians and dispatchers. Green jobs are not an entirely new job sector. Akin to more familiar blue collar jobs, this new class of employment refers to certain types of productive activities rather than a specific job classification.

What’s more, green jobs are inherently local and difficult to outsource. Green jobs involve transforming today’s homes, offices and factories and investing in new, low-carbon infrastructure. This work is impossible to push offshore because it must be preformed on site. Making buildings more energy efficient, constructing mass transit lines, installing solar panels and wind turbines, expanding public green space, and growing and refining advanced biofuels all must take place right here in America.

2. Are green jobs only low-paying jobs?

The short answer: No. Green jobs encompass a wide breadth of skill sets and pay scales. The bulk is good-paying, middle-skill jobs accessible to all Americans.

The long answer: Our research [at Center for American Progress] demonstrates that green jobs are broadly distributed across the entire spectrum of the economy. In a side-by-side comparison of job creation from green investments versus investments in the oil industry, we demonstrated that nearly four times more jobs are created overall at every step in the pay scale and across every skill level. Green jobs represent a wide range of points of entry into meaningful, long-term employment, and can provide ladders into the middle class for lower-skilled workers if career advancement and workforce training opportunities are integrated into our larger economic development strategies.

In fact, green jobs are blue collar and white collar alike. Green jobs are not only production-line construction and manufacturing jobs. Green businesses will need secretaries, managers and accountants, too. High-technology endeavors will offer new opportunities in green design, engineering, and finance. Such a diverse spectrum of job creation is precisely what we need in an economy suffering from its worst downturn since the Great Depression.

3. Do gains in green jobs cause losses in other sectors of the economy?

The short answer: No. A clean energy economy will result in net job creation because green investments are domestic, have a large multiplier effect, and create work that is skill and labor intensive.

The long answer: Investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency can create twice as many jobs per unit of energy and per dollar than traditional fossil-fuel investments by redirecting money previously spent on wasted energy, pollution, and imported fuel toward advanced manufacturing, modern infrastructure, and skilled labor. In the beginning stages, green jobs will simply result in the creation of new jobs that did not exist before, putting people to work without displacing existing sectors. In the medium term, some particularly polluting sectors of the economy experience employment downturns, which is why we must devise smart policies to transition affected workers.

But one day all good jobs will be green jobs as we build an economy where productivity and competitiveness are contingent on increased environmental stewardship and efficient use of all resources, including energy. Moreover, initial public investments in green infrastructure will “crowd-in” private capital. This follows a time-tested script that helped build the railroads, the national highway system, and enabled the development of the Internet revolution. In each case, strategic public investment enabled market transformation and the growth of new industries and vast new opportunities for economic growth and wealth generation.

4. Are green jobs the result of picking technological “winners?”

The short answer: No. A clean energy economy will reward efficiency, low-carbon energy and environmental stewardship. Any and all technologies can compete and contribute in this transformed market.

The long answer: Building a clean energy economy means fixing broken markets where the costs of pollution are passed onto future generations. Setting strong market signals with smart policies through a combination of investment and regulation will allow the market to decide the most appropriate technologies without distorting real consumer choices.

These policies will also spur a huge wave of innovation as the private sector steps up to meet the challenges of solving global warming and reducing our dependence on polluting fossil fuels. That’s the ultimate promise of new green jobs in a clean energy economy.

Green recovery -- by John Podesta 9 Sep 2008

Our economy is in trouble. Falling home prices, foreclosures, bank failures, a weaker dollar, rising prices for gas, food, and steel, and layoffs in banking, construction, and manufacturing sectors are all indicators of serious economic strain—following a long period in which the middle class went nowhere even while the economy grew as a whole… the current downturn will continue for at least another year.

At the same time, we face a growing climate crisis that will require us to rapidly invest in new energy infrastructure, cleaner sources of power, and more efficient use of electricity and fuels in order to cut global warming pollution. There is much work to be done in building smart solutions at a scale and speed that is bold enough to meet this gathering challenge.

It is time for a new vision for the economic revitalization of the nation and a restoration of American leadership in the world. We must seize this precious opportunity to mobilize the country and the international community toward a brighter, more prosperous future. At the heart of this opportunity is clean energy, remaking the vast energy systems that power the nation and the world. We must fundamentally change the way we produce and consume energy and dramatically reduce our dependence on oil. The economic opportunities provided by such a transformation are vast, not to mention the national security benefits of reducing oil dependence and the pressing need to fight global warming. The time for action is now.

A report by Dr. Robert Pollin and University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute economists… [shows] how a new Green Recovery program that spends $100 billion over two years would create 2 million new jobs, with a significant proportion in the struggling construction and manufacturing sectors….

Retrofitting buildings to increase energy efficiency

  • Expanding mass transit and freight rail
  • Constructing “smart” electrical grid transmission systems
  • Wind power
  • Solar power
  • Advanced biofuels

This green recovery and infrastructure investment program would:

  • Create 2 million new jobs nationwide over two years
  • Create nearly four times more jobs than spending the same amount of money within the oil industry and 300,000 more jobs than a similar amount of spending directed toward household consumption.
  • Create roughly triple the number of good jobs—paying at least $16 dollars an hour—as spending the same amount of money within the oil industry.
  • Reduce the unemployment rate to 4.4 percent from 5.7 percent (calculated within the framework of U.S. labor market conditions in July 2008).
  • Bolster employment especially in construction and manufacturing. Construction employment has fallen from 8 million to 7.2 million over the past two years due to the housing bubble collapse. The Green Recovery program can, at the least, bring back these lost 800,000 construction jobs.
  • Provide opportunities to rebuild career ladders through training and workforce development that if properly implemented can provide pathways out of poverty to those who need jobs most. (Because green investment not only creates more good jobs with higher wages, but more jobs overall, distributed broadly across the economy, this program can bring more people into good jobs over time.)
  • Help lower oil prices. Moderating domestic energy demand will have greater price effects than modest new domestic supply increases.
  • Begin the reconstruction of local communities and public infrastructure all across America, setting us on a course for a long-term transition to a low-carbon economy that increases our energy independence and helps fight global warming. Currently, about 22 percent of total household expenditures go to imports. With a green infrastructure investment program, only about 9 percent of purchases flow to imports since so much of the investment is rooted in communities and the built environment, keeping more of the resources within the domestic economy.

Our report looked at investments that were funded through near-term government spending...:

  • $50 billion for tax credits. This would assist private businesses and homeowners to finance both commercial and residential building retrofits, as well as investments in renewable energy systems.
  • $46 billion in direct government spending. This would support public building retrofits, the expansion of mass transit, freight rail, smart electrical grid systems, and new investments in renewable energy
  • $4 billion for federal loan guarantees. This would underwrite private credit that would be extended to finance building retrofits and investments in renewable energy.
The plan increases public spending in the short term when a near-recession economy needs greater impetus to growth; but it remains consistent with fiscally responsible long-term plan to reduce the debt as a share of GDP, after the economy recovers....

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