Tuesday, October 23, 2012

In the Land of Make Believe Politics, Green is the New Color.

This is election season. Job creation is on the lips of every mud-slinging political candidate. The opposition is obvious, while some claim job growth in the renewable sector economy is a sure bet, others call for deregulation and revitalization of those dirty jobs that once plagued our workers with lung cancer and respiratory problems along side of other personal health burdens. In the midst of these talks, very few sensible candidates are willing to reconcile the urgency of jump-starting our economy and the crisis we face in an unsustainable economy. Even fewer candidates know what it is like not to have a job or what it is like to work under cruel and inhumane conditions where health is sacrificed for progress. So the mud-slinging continues and the topics of these conversations rarely focuses on the progress we have made. Often I wonder if such drama is created for the sake of generating separation of ideologies thus separating the votes, or if these politicians really ever have our best interests in mind.    

Politics aside, in March this year, the Bureau of LaborStatistics, part of the U.S. Department of Labor, released their first GreenGoods and Services (GGS) data report (the “Report”). The Report highlighted over 3 million GGS jobs in the United States in 2010, accounting for 2.4% of the total employment in the nation. Most notably, it celebrated the administration’s effort to green the public service sector: with 4% of the public sector employment designated as GGS jobs and about 5% of all federal and state employment designated as such. The Report also points to transportation and warehouse sector as having the greatest number of GGS jobs (approximately 228,900, or over a quarter of the total public sector GGS jobs) and also noted a heavy focus on manufacturing GGS jobs in the private sector: with 461,800 total accounting for 4% of all jobs in the manufacturing sector; and of our construction job market, GGS took up 6.8% of its total with roughly 372,000 GGS jobs in 2010.   

California, not surprisingly, led the nation in total GGS jobs; while Vermont led the nation in having the greatest proportion of GGS jobs of any state. New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio also boasted over 100,000 GGS jobs.

As any government reporting, this particular one is hyper-inflated with such jobs as drivers of natural gas buses; but all in all, the report is a good indication of our transition to a greener economy and serves to measure our trend in sustainable thinking. Based on these findings, the Economic PolicyInstitute (EPI) recently suggested that our green industries have shown a faster growth rate than the overall economy:

"For every percentage-point increase in an industry’s green intensity (the share of employment in green jobs), annual employment growth was 0.034 percentage points higher."

Amongst other things, the EPI noted:

  • States with greater green intensity have generally fared better in the current economic downturn.
  • Green jobs are accessible to workers without a college degree. For every one percentage-point increase in green intensity in a given industry, there was a corresponding 0.28 percentage-point increase in the share of jobs in that industry held by workers without a four-year college degree.
  • Green jobs go beyond the renewable energy industry. For example, nearly 50 percent of jobs in the water industry are green jobs, and the sector has opportunity to grow not just overall but in green intensity.

These data, however much you wish to dispute, tells the tale of possibilities outside of the diversion and division tactics usually employed during political season. Whether you vote one way or another, or that you wish to stand to the side and call for independence, you should take note of EPI's final thoughts on the matter:

“[The GGS Report] reminds us that the seeds of a green transition are planted throughout the economy, that the fundamental structure of the economy will remain intact, and that this vision isn’t so radical but rather is already happening all around us. [There is now] new evidence that suggests a greener economy will also be more open, accessible, and resilient.”

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