Patt Morrison for August 23, 2011

The broken promise of a “green economy”: few jobs created by federal and state money

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A traffic arrow points on a street that leads by the four cooling towers of the Temelin nuclear power plant.

In recent years, politicians like Barack Obama and Jerry Brown have talked a lot about the potential of a “green economy” to create millions of jobs and reinvigorate the nation’s finances, but a new study by the Brookings Institution has found otherwise: clean-technology jobs only account for 2% of American employment. Though California leads the nation with its 320,000 “green jobs”—90,000 of which are concentrated in the L.A. Metropolitan area—Silicon Valley ranked only slightly above the nationwide average, with 2.2%. In fact, emerging employment figures indicate that efforts by federal and state governments to pump money into these jobs are proving dramatically unsuccessful. Two years ago, California was awarded $186 million in federal stimulus money to fix drafty homes, but so far about only half of the money has been spent, and only 538 full-time jobs have been created. The $59 million in federal, state and local money meant for green job training and apprenticeships has also yielded disappointing results, with 719 job placements. The number of green jobs has even declined in some areas, with a loss of 492 positions in the South Bay between 2003 and 2010. Though California’s own environmental legislation has helped create a business environment hospitable to a new green economy, nationwide declines in construction and demand have hurt the wide-spread growth of green jobs. Why have so many fewer jobs been created than originally promised? And have companies and the government overestimated how much the public really cares about energy efficiency?

Guests:

Mark Muro, senior fellow and director of policy for the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings and co-author of “Sizing the Clean Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment”

David Hochschild, vice president, External Relations for Solaria, a solar panel manufacturer; He co-founded Vote Solar and was instrumental in California's landmark $3.3 billion solar initiative

Andrew P. Morriss, research fellow at the New York University Center for Labor and Employment Law, a Senior Fellow at the Property & Environment Research Center and a Senior Scholar at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University


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