How Many Jobs are Truly Created in a “Green Economy?”

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Politicians often tout the benefits of going green from both an environmental and economic standpoint. After all, going green helps the economy by expanding the energy sector to one reliant primarily on fossil fuels to one that includes alternative and renewable sources which tend to be cleaner for the environment. Yet, there are varying numbers about how many jobs are truly created in a “Green Economy.” Determining how many jobs are created is difficult because defining what is green and what is not is open to all kinds of interpretation.

The Center for American Progress seems to suggest that the green economy can create a lot of jobs through infrastructure rebuilding. For example, The Center for American Progress reports that “This green recovery and infrastructure investment program would: Create 2 million new jobs in the nation over two years, Bolster employment within 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 can, at the least, bring back these lost 800,000 construction jobs.” When framed in terms of manufacturing and infrastructure, perhaps the green economy can create 2 million jobs. So, for example, installing things like wind mills and solar panels on homes definitely has huge upside and can create the 2 million jobs cited by The Center for American Progress.

However, when calculating how many jobs are truly created in a green economy, the count can include activities that are not truly green in terms of not emitting carbon dioxide. For example, some biofuel and biomass production may come in the form of using fossil fuel inputs such as chemically derived fertilizers and pesticides. Yet, biofuels and biomass that involves such things as using fossil fuel inputs would be counted as part of the green economy in the same manner as the installation of solar panels and windmills that are part of the new green manufacturing and infrastructure program cited by The Center for American Progress. So, two million jobs may be created, but it comes with caveats as to how we define the term “green.”

Nevertheless, restoration of the manufacturing sector here in the U.S. is definitely a plus and can be part of the green economy. Even if 500,000 jobs are truly created in a green economy, that is progress especially given the prolonged recession the U.S. is currently experiencing. There is no question that there are green jobs available, but the question is how many are truly “green.” The Center for American Progress makes a compelling argument about how there are green manufacturing jobs and creating those types of jobs in this recession is certainly a must to improve the overall economic outlook and to help the environment.

Article by Patrick Kenney, appearing courtesy Justmeans.

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  • Willa Smith

    How many “green” jobs there are and what the definition is of “green jobs” continues to be a topic of controversy. I believe we need to go beyond green and ask, “How many jobs are there, and could there be, that are related to “sustainability”? Then, the question goes beyond how many people occupy jobs in green manufacturing and infrastructure, and as forest rangers and environmental scientists. It would include those in occupations such as teachers of social justice, career counselors who encourage exploration of sustainability-related occupations, attorneys who work on the behalf of clients fighting to keep their community from being the home of a toxic waste graveyard, plus many, many more.

    So, how “green jobs” is defined really will make a difference on the estimate of how many there are. It will be interesting to learn how the government and other surveyors of such things define the term. The controversy will no doubt continue and provide us with a “range” of the number of people making a living related to protecting and caring for our planet.

    Willa Smith