Green Jobs Grow Strong In Hard Times

By Bob Deans, Natural Resources Defense Council

House Republicans are using the failure of Solyndra, the solar panel maker, to launch a political broadside, attacking President Obama and his visionary program to promote energy efficiency, renewable power and American jobs.

Solyndra’s bankruptcy has raised important questions. The FBI and others will find the answers. If there’s been misconduct, those responsible will be held to account.

In attacking green jobs, though, House Republicans are striking at one of the bright spots in our struggling economy. For nearly 3 million American families, green jobs are a lifeline in hard times.

green job

image via Shutterstock

Captives of the same tea party gang that drove the country to the brink of default last month, House Republicans have now mounted an equally reckless assault on this vital source of economic health.

The spirit of this GOP offensive is best reflected in the title that House Oversight & Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Ca., has assigned to a Thursday hearing: “How Obama’s Green Energy Agenda is Killing Jobs.”

Really, Mr. Chairman?

I hope every citizen everywhere who cares about putting Americans back to work, strengthening our economy and investing our national politics with a modicum of common decency will tune in to this hearing or read about it afterwards. It promises to be revelatory on all counts.

As we do, here are some facts we might all bear in mind.

Q. What’s happening with green jobs?

A. Green jobs are growing strong in a weak economy, supporting nearly 3 million American families in hard times.

In 2009, there were 2.2 million green jobs in America, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. By July, 2011, there were 2.7 million, according to the Brookings Institution.

Most of these jobs didn’t exist a decade ago. Since then, we’ve lost 4.5 million factory jobs. Those jobs are gone, they’re not coming back, and there’s not much we can do about it.

What we can do is invest in the jobs of the future. Green jobs are a big part of that.

Q. Why?

A. The world is quickly moving toward greater energy efficiency and cleaner, safer, more sustainable sources of power and fuel. Building a sound economy demands this shift, which will attract trillions of dollars in investment over the coming decade.

image via Shutterstock

Last year alone, the United States, China, Germany and 17 other of the world’s top economic powers invested a total of $243 billion in clean energy technologies, up 30 percent from the year before. If the global green economy were a country, it would be the 34th-richest in the world, just ahead of Finland.

Between 2010 and 2035, we’ll invest $5.7 trillion, globally, just on wind, solar and other sources of renewable electricity, the International Energy Agency estimates in its new World Energy Outlook (go here and click on executive summary).

And that doesn’t count the investments – worth scores of billions of dollars a year – going toward making our homes and workplaces more efficient, investments thatMcKinsey & Company estimates could cut U.S. non-transportation energy use 23 percent by 2020.

All of this is good news for American workers, because we have the skills it takes to get the job done.

Q. What kinds of jobs?

A. In 2005, we spent about $3 billion on sustainable workplaces and other green construction. Last year, that work topped $55 billion. In 2015, it will amount to $135 billion, according to McGraw Hill Construction, which reports that “green building is the bright spot in an otherwise tough economy.”

That means real jobs in hard times for contractors, carpenters, cement workers, truck drivers and others – literally hundreds of thousands of them.

What about wind? About 87,000 engineers, steelworkers, machinists and others are employed designing, building or installing wind turbines, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Wind energy is real. Nationally, we’re getting 3.3 percent of our electricity from wind, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Texas, the oil capital of the world, is getting 8 percent of its electricity from wind turbines, which are helping to keep ranchers and farmers viable amid epic drought. Over the past four years, one company alone, Charlotte-based Duke Energy, has invested more than $1.8 billion building wind farms across the country.

About 100,000 Americans now work in the solar power and solar heating industry, which takes in more than 5,000 companies around the country. These are good jobs for engineers, manufacturers, electricians, plumbers, physicists, chemists and others, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There are many other examples, because, the fact is, our world is changing, and our workforce is changing with it. That’s what American progress is all about.

I am the editor-in-chief and founder for EarthTechling. This site is my desire to bring the world of green technology to consumers in a timely and informative matter. Prior to this my previous ventures have included a strong freelance writing career and time spent at Silicon Valley start ups.