America's overall economy may be stumbling today, but the emerging green economy here and abroad seems to be going great guns. Just look at the growing evidence:
- Earlier this month, I blogged about how 750,000 American workers are getting paychecks to do green jobs. That was based on a novel index from the U.S. Conference of Mayors looking at existing U.S. jobs devoted to reducing the use of fossil fuels, increasing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
- In the New York Times today, Felicity Barringer writes that "California's energy-efficiency policies created nearly 1.5 million jobs from 1977 to 2007, while eliminating fewer than 25,000.The study, conducted by David Roland-Holst, an economist at the Center for Energy, Resources and Economic Sustainability at the University of California, Berkeley, found that while the state's policies lowered employee compensation in the electric power industry by an estimated $1.6 billion over that period, it improved compensation in the state over all by $44.6 billion." So much for the doomsayers who keep telling us that doing better by the environment means killing jobs. As the California research shows, they couldn't be more wrong about that!
- On a global basis, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is promoting the idea of a "Green New Deal" on a planet-wide basis to deal with unemployment and growing starvation challenges. As The Independent reported last week: "The ambitious plan - the start of which will be formally launched in London next week - will call on world leaders, including the new US President, to promote a massive redirection of investment away from the speculation that has caused the bursting "financial and housing bubbles" and into job-creating programmes to restore the natural systems that underpin the world economy."
The "Green New Deal" promoted by UNEP would use the process of tackling climate change to address a host of interrelated problems: "These range from climate change; poverty; job creation for the 1.3 billion people under or unemployed and accelerating natural resource scarcity to the need to fuel and to feed six billion, rising to nine billion people by 2050."
Why is "green" the color of a new economy? One reason is that clean energy tends to be much more labor-intensive than traditional fossil-fuel based energy. A previously discussed report by economists at the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) found that investments in clean energy create nearly four times as many jobs as investments in oil production. So if we are looking to put people to work, clean energy is clearly the way to go.
So while the financial challenges facing the U.S. and the global economy are enormous, it is worth recognizing that a strong and growing green economy could be a significant source of relief.