Amidst clear blue skies, warm sand and sun, and gently-breaking waves, children gathered on the New Jersey Shore on Friday to fly kites in honor of Global Wind Day. The brisk breeze blowing was perfect for kite flying, but more, it demonstrated what so many had gathered to celebrate: New Jersey’s strong offshore wind potential, and the jobs, revenue, and environmental benefits that harnessing this renewable resource would bring to the state.
But on the other side of the beach gathered another crowd, this one bused in to protest the kite fliers, and the threat they think the seemingly innocent children posed to their freedom. The fossil fuel front group, Americans for Prosperity had convened, according to their media statement, to protest, “harness[ing] the power of child labor” and “European eco-zealots”. They held signs defending their freedom, and had even chartered a plane, the banner behind it reading, “Save our beaches - stop windmills off the Jersey shore.”
Back on the kite side of the beach the children seemed to be enjoying a leisure, not labor, activity. And the workers in the wind industry I’ve met seem to be enjoying their employment opportunities, seeing them as an expansion, not retraction, of freedom. Indeed, from the research phase to the production phase to the project phase, the clean economy is helping create jobs, and putting Americans back to work at every step of development. It’s happening in Ohio, in Michigan, and, increasingly, across the U.S., as 3.1 million Americans enjoyed a green job in 2010.
Offshore wind jobs could add to that number, and New Jersey could lead the industry and create employment opportunities for its hardworking population. That is, if it can stomach the comparison to those European offshore wind eco-zealots and the 33,000 jobs they’re bringing to Germany.