Friday, November 7, 2008

Green Collar Jobs to Revive the Economy?

The Wall Street Journal reports:

President-elect Barack Obama and his energy advisers have been making the case that a multibillion-dollar government investment in everything from wind turbines to a "smart" electrical grid is just what's needed to help revive the economy. The lure is millions of government-subsidized "green jobs."

On the campaign trail, Mr. Obama argued that spending $150 billion over the next decade to boost energy efficiency would help create five million jobs. The jobs would include insulation installers, to make houses more energy-efficient, wind-turbine builders, to displace coal-fired electricity, and construction workers, to build greener buildings and upgrade the electrical grid.

Read the entire article here.

And on a similar note, I've been looking for a reason to post a link to Dayo Olopade's piece in The New Republic about the division of liberals along class lines due to the environmental movement. A few excerpts from Olopade's piece:

Class distinctions were bred into the green movement from the beginning, as elite families like the Roosevelts and Rockefellers backed early conservation efforts that generally privileged aesthetics over economics. The Sierra Club itself was at first a social organization that arranged outdoor adventures for its leisured members. In 1962, Rachel Carson (who grew up along the Allegheny River just north of Pittsburgh) published Silent Spring to expose the role of chemicals and industrial pollutants in the production cycle, promoting the defense-of-nature model that animates groups like the National Wildlife Federation, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the Sierra Club to this day. But, although Silent Spring talks extensively about factories, the seminal text makes virtually no mention of the people working inside them.

Labor groups in industries like logging or car manufacturing have spent years fighting the conservation agenda and blaming green victories like the Endangered Species Act for draining jobs in construction and development. By 1997, the AFL-CIO saw fit to campaign against U.S. adoption of the Kyoto Protocols, which it regarded as an economic albatross, and, in 2002, the Teamsters sided with conservative Republicans to push for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Of course, both groups have consistently endorsed and campaigned for Democrats throughout this period, and there have been occasional moments of synergy, as when greens and blues teamed up to push the Clean Air and the Occupational Health and Safety acts in the 1970s. But "it was easier to do that when the economy was booming," says Les Leopold, a labor historian and co-founder of the Public Health Institute. Since the rust belt began to tighten in the '80s, the character of the relationship has overwhelmingly been one of mutual mistrust and rivalry, with the greens viewed as hostile to the problems everyday people face.

Now green-collar jobs are providing an obvious incentive for compromise. The idea is to bring about the greening of the United States while restocking the beleaguered labor movement with good positions--in both traditional fields (such as building the storkish steel turbines that now dot Pennsylvanian hills) and new ones (like energy audits, efficiency retrofitting, and biofuel production).

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