On the jobs front, we’ve mostly been hearing lately that the outlook is slowly improving. We haven’t been hearing too much about Green Jobs, and I’m wondering why that is. Has the Green sector over-promised and under-delivered? Have green jobs gone the way of their erstwhile czar, Van Jones, which is to say, into the shadows?
To hear conservative commentators tell it, the green economy is a fad, with trumped up benefits, offering jobs that only come at the expense of conventional jobs. And now, they say, with a recession raging all around us, is not the time to be investing money in a more sustainable future.
Fox News, for example, ran this story as a foil to President Obama’s positive remarks about Europe’s experience with the Green Economy. They offered Spanish economist Gabriel Calzada Alvarez who claimed that for every green job created with government funding, 2.2 conventional jobs were lost. However, Alvarez, who is a member of two libertarian think tanks, one of which is funded by Exxon-Mobil, understated the actual number of green jobs by a factor of 3.7. Several other flaws in Alvarez’ study can be found here.
By tracking the jobs and job changes among its 150 million members, LinkedIn has a clear picture into which industries are moving up and which are in decline. According to their data, the green sector, which includes renewable energy and environmental roles was the fastest growing of all up, 49 per cent.
LinkedIn data scientist Scott Nicholson said, “Our data show that, even through the recession, the industries with the largest volume of employment growth… were internet, hospitals and healthcare, health, wellness and fitness, oil & energy, IT and renewables.”
On the other hand, “retail, construction, telecommunications, banking and automotive had the largest volume of job losses between 2007 and 2011.”
Critics will undoubtedly argue that LinkedIn’s sampling methodology is somewhat unconventional since respondents are somewhat self-selecting, but their analysis is not the only one indicating this trend. This is not surprising considering that global demand for renewables grew by 31 per cent during 2011 to nearly $250 billion.
Last month, renewable energy jobs in the European Union broke through to 1.14 million, finally exceeding through the milestone million. The report goes on to say that the EU is on track to meet their goal of 20% renewables by 2020.
According to the Pew Charitable Trust, “A clean energy economy generates jobs, businesses, and investments while expanding clean energy projection, increasing energy efficiency, reducing green house gas emissions, waste and pollution, and conserving water and other national resources.”
As described in their report, clean energy economy jobs in the US, in the years 1998-2007, grew by 9.1% while overall jobs grew by only 3.7%.
Mark Muro, of the Brookings Institution, says the 100,000 green jobs were added between 2003-2010, with the highest levels of growth occurring in areas with green tech clusters, like Albany, NY and Cleveland, OH.
The trend continues. Just last week, a community college in Santa Fe landed a $300,000 grant from the EPA, to prepare students for the clean energy economy. Says Randy Grissom, dean of economic and workforce development and head of the college’s Sustainable Technologies Center, “the money helps us provide training for people in green jobs, such as solar installations or use of waste products for energy sources.”
To keep the growth moving forward, we need continued investment in the green economy. New business are like seedlings that need lots of water before they can begin to bear fruit. Providing the needed resources at the early stages can bear enormous dividends down the road. Now is not the time to be cutting back in the name of deficit reduction. The best way to reduce the deficit, and I believe the only way we’ve ever done it is by growing the economy with new business and new technology.
[Image credit: spanginator:Flickr Creative Commons]
RP Siegel, PE, is the President of Rain Mountain LLC. He is also the co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water. Now available on Kindle.
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