New Jobs from Clean Energy Can Revitalize the Economy

Jackie RobertsThis post is by Jackie Roberts, director of sustainable technologies at Environmental Defense Fund.

In the midst of reports of six straight months of U.S. job losses, there were two reports on a more hopeful note:

The Worldwatch Institute finding that green economy jobs were increasing as other jobs declined was part of their Vital Signs Update. From Senior Researcher Michael Renner:

Renewables are poised to tackle our energy crisis and create millions of new jobs worldwide.

The U Mass report, commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), reached the same conclusion from a different angle. Researchers analyzed job opportunities from six green economy strategies (for example, wind power) and found that 14 million people – 9 percent of the U.S. workforce – are employed by the green economy.

And this number, they point out, is conservative. Only six industries are considered and suppliers aren’t counted. The potential is enormous.

The Green Economy Ripple Effect

The green economy doesn’t just mean new industries and the jobs associated with them – though these jobs are significant. For example, check out this story on community colleges scrambling to train wind turbine workers. It also means new and more secure jobs in traditional industries that supply new industries – for example, businesses that manufacture nuts, bolts, and bearings for wind turbines.

Job opportunities in the supply chains supporting climate solutions – from renewable energy technologies to energy efficiency products – are often missed in discussions of "green jobs". The workforce here isn’t being retrained or moved into different jobs. The green economy gives traditional industries new markets for products that they’ve made for years.

In our maps of the green economy, you can see that suppliers to green industries are as numerous as the green industries themselves.

The green economy offers work opportunities at all levels – white collar and blue collar, new industries and old. Naysayers claim that capping carbon would cripple our economy, but it’s just the opposite. With federal legislation to cap greenhouse gases, the green economy would increase exponentially and give our economy a much-needed boost.

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