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Minnesota Governor Unveils Green Jobs Initiative: Is it Truly Green or Just Greenwash?

| Thursday November 13th, 2008 | 0 Comments

Minnesota Green Jobs Inititiative: Green or GreenwashMinnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty announced this week his Green Jobs Initiative for consideration in the 2009 legislative session.

The initiative offers a range of tax incentives for companies that produce renewable energy, manufacture renewable energy system components, or make green building products. The definition of green jobs could also include those in the service sector that support green business or install energy management systems.

Some of the specific elements of the Pawlenty’s initiative include:

  • A new tax incentive for qualifying green jobs through an extension of the states JOBZ program, which gives tax breaks for businesses that create jobs in economically struggling, mostly rural areas of the state.
  • $20 million in new Job Growth Investment Tax Credits. Half of the credits will go for job projects that promote the state’s renewable energy targets.
  • $60 million for new Small Business Investment Tax Credits for qualifying Minnesota businesses, half of which will go for green job projects.
  • Incentives to expand renewable energy projects throughout the state.
  • A “Clean and Green” category for the Minnesota Cup, a competition that rewards entrepreneurial innovation.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development states there are currently 15,000 residents employed in green jobs, with the potential to 114,000 more jobs by 2038.

But is it greenwashing?

Writing in the Greenwash Brigade section of American Public Radio’s Marketplace blog, Janne Filsrand, program coordinator for Minnesota Green Communities, discusses a poll from progressive think tank Minnesota 2020 entitled Greenwashing JOBZ.

The poll doesn’t leave much middle ground, asking respondents if they think Pawlenty’s initiative is either a solid idea to create jobs, spur the economy, and grow the state’s clean tech sector, or just another “hollow” idea aimed at making the Governor look good.

When I last checked, of the 578 people that voted in the poll, 86% thought it another hollow idea from Pawlenty, and only 14% approved of the idea. (For disclosure, I had to vote to see the results, and voted positive.)

Based on the TerraChoice Six Sins of Greenwashing, Filsrand accepts that even a policy initiative can be accused of greenwash, and, if a bit of an exaggeration on the part of Minnesota 2020, is still appropriate in this case.

Filsrand cites the state auditor’s assessment that the JOBZ program hasn’t been an effective policy thus far, and the Sin of Irrelevance applies. Painting over bad policy with “green” lends itself to “greenwash”.

Then there’s the Sin of No Proof. It may sound good, but claims of future policy success by definition lack proof.

Filsrand also cites that Pawlenty’s ambitious energy policies have been lacking in actual implementation.

Still I get the feeling that Filsrand wants to believe, if nonetheless plagued with doubts – as are most people that cared enough to respond to the Minnesota 2020 poll.

I live in California, a state grappling with its own post-election issues. Being only a visitor to the fair state of Minnesota, my inclination is to give policy initiatives labeled “green” the benefit of the doubt. Then I am reminded of propositions 7 and 10 here in California (renewable energy initiatives that were both soundly defeated and opposed by most environmental and clean tech advocates). All is not as it seems, and greenwashing can lurk anywhere.

So I offer the question to TriplePundit readers from Minnesota – is Pawlenty’s Green Jobs Initiative truly green, or just greenwash? Or, as Filsrand says, should we wait and see what happens before affixing labels?


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