Chicago Green Jobs

Chicago: Leading the Climate Change Trends!
June 16, 2009, 7:48 pm
Filed under: Green Job Research

I overheard a conversation the other day that went like this: “I can’t believe how cold and rainy it is – guess this pretty much proves that global warming is garbage.”

Now normally I would launch into a pedantic explanation of trends vs. events, but now we’ve got some DATA!  According to a new report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) our current craptacular weather puts Chicago right on trend for climate change effects!

Check out this little gem courtesy of David Fahrenthold in the Washington Post: “The heaviest rainstorms have already become 67 percent heavier since 1958 in the Northeast, as warmer weather evaporates more water vapor into the atmosphere to feed storm clouds. Around the Great Lakes, “lake effect” snowstorms could get heavier as ice recedes and exposes more open water.”

Tell your friends: climate change will ruin your bar-b-que!

The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) has been coordinating and synthesizing  federal research on climate change and its implications since 1989. In this report they have dispensed with the pussy-footing and gotten down to brass tacks: this is what we can expect if current trends continue.

The full report is beautifully organized around the impacts affecting different regions in the US – I strongly recommend taking a few minutes to click around and explore.


Green Menace! “Seven Myths” is Ideology, Not Scholarship
March 25, 2009, 4:58 pm
Filed under: Green Job Research

What’s the difference between red communists and green job proponents? If you’re the authors of the “Seven Myths About Green Jobs” report, the answer is… nothing!

The report is larded through with dramatic warnings about “centralized planning” and “reordering society,” but just in case the reader missed the hints the authors included this pair of priceless quotes:

“Despite their new packaging, these calls for creating a new society through central planning are as old as human history. The failure of the twentieth century’s utopian experiments suggests caution in undertaking such widespread transformations of society.”

“Our review convinces us that the real purpose of the green jobs initiative is not to create jobs but to remake society.”

Green menace! Keep in mind that “Seven Myths” purports to be a critique of the methodology of green jobs reports by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the American Solar Energy Society, the Center for American Progress, and the United Nations Environment Programme. I mean, everyone knows that the U.S. Conference of Mayors has been itching to seize all private property and place it under state control for years now. But that’s no excuse for the authors to jump on the green bandwagon as a cover for rehashing their pet issues.

The truth is that no one is arguing that creating green jobs is an end in itself. President Obama was elected on a platform that promised to transition American energy sources away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy. All levels of government are  now engaged in figuring out how to make this transition in a way that maximizes benefits to all stakeholders. Because any transition on this scale creates new industries and new jobs, businesses and other organizations are doing their own research and trying to get a seat at the table. These four organizations are contributing their ideas about how this transition might generate jobs to the debate, and how various policy options might impact who gets those jobs (hint: Americans, please!).

The authors of the “Seven Myths” report take the position that the market alone will transform our energy system:

“By analyzing the problems with the green jobs literature’s claims, we hope to persuade readers that the fundamental question is not whether to spend $20 billion or $400 billion of taxpayers’ money on solar or wind power but who should decide how resources should be allocated: people in the marketplace or planners and politicians in Washington, D.C.”

Any serious discussion of policy requires that participants have the intellectual flexibility to understand that solutions don’t have to be either 100% market-based or 100% government-based. By refusing to offer constructive ideas about solving the problem at hand and choosing to drown their handful of valid points in a sea of hysterical fear-mongering, the authors have shown themselves to be ideologues who who have nothing to contribute to the adults at the table.

False Assumptions in the “Seven Myths About Green Jobs” Report
March 24, 2009, 5:35 pm
Filed under: Green Job Research

Pop quiz: What is the only problem in the entire world that can’t be solved by free markets, according to the authors of the “Seven Myths About Green Jobs” report?

Answer: Valuing carbon emissions! That’s right, creating a cap and trade system to bring market principles to bear on climate-changing emissions totally won’t work as long as government plays any role in its creation. I have definitely noticed that markets are only efficient without pesky government regulation. I mean, look at the oil market – except for the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries and US government subsidies ($37 billion annually) it works completely without governmental interference!

As you can see, I’ve spent some more time with the “Seven Myths” report. I wrote last week about some of the false assumptions threading through the report, but there are so many that it deserves another look. Here are five more doozies:

Five Myths:

Myth 1. Green jobs advocates want to eliminate non-renewable energy sources.

Myth 2. There hasn’t been any public debate on making sweeping change in energy policy.

Myth 3. Free markets create only positive externalities; government policy creates only negative externalities.

Myth 4. The primary goal of shifting our energy supply to renewable sources is to create green jobs.

Myth 5. Because the goal is to create the right kind of jobs, that really means we’re talking about centralized economic planning.

And frankly, it’s a shame that the report is built on so many false assumptions because the authors do make several excellent points that deserve to be discussed more widely. Here are four of those truths:

Four Truths:

1. Transitioning to a green energy economy will destroy jobs as well as create them.

2. There is no agreed-upon definition of a green job.

3. Organizations that commission studies may bias results.

4. Ethanol sucks.

Despite these truths, this report should not be taken seriously by anyone trying to make serious policy decisions around transitioning the country to a renewable energy future. Tomorrow I’ll explain why.

Oil Companies Hate Green Jobs So, So Much
March 20, 2009, 5:14 am
Filed under: Green Job Research

Let the backlash begin! After a spate of reports full of glowing predictions that investing in green and renewable energy will produce a bonanza of jobs, we’re starting to get the “Hold Your Horses” studies.

My personal favorite is the memorably titled “Seven Myths About Green Jobs” by a team of researchers headed up by Andrew Moriss, a University of Illinois professor. The study’s central premise is that the methodology used in green jobs reports published by a range of organizations, including the United Nations Environmental Program and the Center for American Progress, is suspect and based on “dubious assumptions.” But how do the arguments and assertions in this report hold up to scrutiny? Not so well.

First things first – who paid for this study? According to this News Gazette piece, a noble org called the Institute for Energy Research put up a sizable chunk of change. Their board of directors is a potpourri of oil execs and right wing policy wonks, and their issues include drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, expanding offshore drilling, and promoting a “free market,” or “non-existent,” approach to climate change. I think we can expect the IER to have bias towards the oil and coal based status quo.

It appears that this bias has carried over into the report, because there are some pretty outstanding leaps of logic scattered in the seven “myths.” My favorite “dubious assumptions” in this report are after the jump.
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Race, Gender, Jobs: Green Jobs For Who, Exactly?
March 3, 2009, 4:11 am
Filed under: Green Job Research




Percent chances of snow in DC over the next few days? Nope – it’s the percentage of electrical power line installers, engineering technicians, and industrial mechanics in highly green industries who are men according to Green Jobs: A Pathway to a Strong Middle Class. That pattern holds true throughout all the titles listed in the report – the job with lowest percentage of men was miscellaneous assemblers and fabricators, which clocked in at 63.3%. The overwhelming majority of the men holding these jobs are also white – not a single title drops below the 75% white mark, and most are up in the 80’s.

Given that the same report states that one of the characteristics of a green job is that it “should be available to diverse workers from across the spectrum of race, gender, and ethnicity” what are we to make of this pattern?

Because most green collar jobs will be blue collar jobs in a green industry, we can expect to see big extant labor pools for these new jobs. White men currently dominate that labor pool (black people are under-represented in manufacturing, construction, and mining, for example), so we can anticipate that white men will be well positioned to suck up green jobs. In other words, an expanding green economy is not necessarily linked to creating new job opportunities for women and minorities.

Building new “pathways out of poverty,” the stated mission of the Green Jobs Act, requires much more than a shiny new industry. Consider this: if you are a factory owner and you have the choice between a guy with 15 years experience welding and a girl who was just certified as a green welder, who are you going to pick? Figuring out how to pull people out of poverty is a complex problem that dedicated people have been trying to solve for decades. A powerful new industry can’t hurt, but it’s not the magic bullet.

Green Jobs For Some!
March 2, 2009, 12:02 am
Filed under: Green Job Research

We’ve got some new research on the green jobs sector, this time from Obama’s Task Force on the Middle Class. The report, Green Jobs: A Pathway to a Strong Middle Class, is the very first of the task force, and it attempts to explain what green jobs are and why they will benefit the middle class.

This is a good thing, because despite the epic buzz around the idea of green jobs there isn’t an accepted definition of just what exactly a green job IS. And since we’re funneling billions of dollars into growing green jobs, it behooves us to agree on some metrics for success.

The report outlines three characteristics of a green job:

  1. Involves some task associated with improving the environment
  2. Provides a sustainable family wage, health and retirement benefits, and good working conditions
  3. Available to a diverse workforce across gender, race, and ethnicity

Appealing? Yes! Rigorous? No!  Fortunately, we get some job titles and some wage information in the next section of the report: an anlysis by the Council of Economic Advisers of workers in representative occupations and industries within the green sector. More on these job titles  – and just who works in them (hint: rhymes with might hen) after the jump.

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