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Green Economy Projection: Job Opportunities for the Green Economy

This state-by-state picture of occupations that gain from green investments covers building retrofits; mass transit, automobiles; wind power; solar power and cellulosic fuels.

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"Fighting global warming and transforming the United States into a green economy is a massive and defining challenge for our time. It is the work of a generation, and specifically, the work of millions of people, performing the jobs needed to build the green economy." So state the authors of "Job Opportunities for the Green Economy." This state-by-state picture of occupations that gain from green investments was written by Robert Pollin ad Jeannette Wicks-Lim of the Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachu-setts, Amherst in June 2008.

The six green strategies we examine here are:

  • Building retrofitting
  • Mass transit
  • Energy-efficient automobiles
  • Wind power
  • Solar power
  • Cellulosic biomass fuels
The vast majority of jobs associated with these six green strategies are in the same areas of employment that people already work in to-day, in every region and state of the country. For example, constructing wind farms creates jobs for sheet metal workers, machinists and truck drivers, among many others. Increasing the energy efficiency of buildings through retrofitting relies, among others, on roofers, insulators and building inspectors.

A green economy is based on the efficient use of energy, reducing polluting emissions, and the use of renewable sources of power. A green economy uses these investments to create new opportunities, good jobs, and stronger communities. The term “green jobs” has spread rapidly over the past year. We seek to make the term concrete by high-lighting many -- but by no means all -- of the occupations that will play a central role in building the green economy.

Green strategiesRepresentative jobs
Building Retrofitting Electricians, Heating/Air Conditioning Installers, Carpenters, Construction Equipment Operators, Roofers, Insulation Workers, Carpenter Helpers, Industrial Truck Drivers, Construction Managers, Building Inspectors
Mass Transit Civil Engineers, Rail Track Layers, Electricians, Welders, Metal Fabricators, Engine Assemblers, Production Helpers, Bus Drivers, First-Line Transportation Supervisors, Dispatchers
Energy-Efficient Automobiles Computer Software Engineers, Electrical Engineers, Engineering Technicians, Welders, Transportation Equipment Painters, Metal Fabricators, Computer-Controlled Machine Operators, Engine Assemblers, Production Helpers, Operations Managers
Wind Power Environmental Engineers, Iron and Steel Workers, Millwrights, Sheet Metal Workers, Machinists, Electrical Equipment Assemblers, Construction Equipment Operators, Industrial Truck Drivers, Industrial Production Managers, First-Line Production Supervisors
Solar Power Electrical Engineers, Electricians, Industrial Machinery Mechanics, Welders, Metal Fabricators, Electrical Equipment Assemblers, Construction Equipment Operators, Installation Helpers, Laborers, Construction Managers
Cellulosic Biofuels Chemical Engineers, Chemists, Chemical Equipment Operators, Chemical Technicians, Mixing and Blending Machine Operators, Agricultural Workers, Industrial Truck Drivers, Farm Product Purchasers, Agricultural and Forestry Supervisors, Agricultural Inspectors

It is important to link the idea of green jobs with decent employment opportunities: jobs that pay at least a living wage, and offer career lad-ders, training opportunities and some measure of security. A green economy should be one that is sustainable along two equally important dimensions: for the environment itself, of course; but also in terms of people’s ability to live at a decent material standard and to enjoy basic rights and opportunities at their work-places.

The authors of this study considered employment conditions in 12 separate states: Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Some of the take-aways from this research include:

A push to dramatically increase the country’s supply of wind energy will mean increased demand for these work-ers. Rising demand could also lead to rising average wages.

Producing affordable solar energy will increase employment for electrical engineers, of whom there are presently about 150,000 employed throughout the United States. The 590 electrical engineers now working in Nebraska earn about $35 an hour. The roughly 1,900 employed in Tennessee are now making, on average, more than $36 an hour. Opportunities for these workers will also grow. An expanding solar energy industry will also employ thousands of equipment operators, budget ana-lysts, laborers, and office clerks.

Welders will certainly play an important role in the green economy, in constructing solar equipment, energy efficient cars, trucks, and trains, and other areas.

Industrial truck drivers will be in demand throughout the green economy. They will be moving equipment and materials both within the 12 states we have listed, and throughout the country.

What is clear from the report is that millions of U.S. workers—across a wide range of occupations, states, and income levels—will all benefit from the project of de-feating global warming and transforming the United States into a green economy.

Additional Green Job Resources

Additional studies about green jobs include a 2007 study by McKinsey and Company, "Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions: How Much at What Cost?" which discusses five broad clusters of approaches to reducing greenhouse emissions, including
  • Improving energy efficiency in buildings and appliances
  • Increasing fuel efficiency in vehicles and reducing carbon intensity of transportation fuels
  • Improving efficiency in energy-intensive industrial production
  • Expanding and enhancing carbon sinks
  • Reducing the carbon intensity of electrical power production
Within these five broad clusters, they identify a total of 41 strategies that, in combination, are capable of significantly reducing greenhouse emissions at no net cost to the economy.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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