There has been a lot of debate recently about the job creation impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a.k.a. the stimulus bill, particularly when it comes to the creation of “green jobs.” It turns out, believe it or not, that some of the components of renewable energy systems (wind turbines, solar energy systems and the like) are manufactured overseas. Cue the screaming headlines about stimulus money creating green jobs in China!
The reality, however, is quite different. Even if America imported every wind turbine or solar panel from China (which we don’t; renewable energy manufacturing in the U.S. has increased dramatically over the past decade), investment in renewable energy would still create lots of jobs – from the bankers who secure financing for the projects to the installers of renewable energy systems to the guys who drive the lunch trucks out to the work sites. Most of these are jobs that can never be outsourced. (See here for an excellent presentation on how renewable energy projects can boost the economy of an entire town.)
In other words, most people who work in green jobs don’t work in “GREEN JOBS.” They work in regular jobs that benefit from investment in clean energy technologies.
Our most recent report, “Ohio’s Green Energy Economy: The Energy Efficiency Industry” identifies 1,100 businesses in Ohio that are engaged in some facet of the “energy efficiency industry.” For some of the businesses we highlight, energy efficiency is a central part of their business – consider the insulation manufacturer Owens Corning, based in Toledo, or architectural firms specializing in green buildings. For others, however, the sale of energy efficient products is just one of many things they do. The typical appliance salesman at Sears, for example, probably does not think of himself as having a “green job,” but programs to boost the sales of energy efficient appliances can enable him to keep his job during an economic downturn, or boost his paycheck.
The report also highlights tangible examples of energy efficiency investments that are putting people to work right now while also serving critical community needs, such as the community action agency that had a four-year waiting list for home weatherization services, which it can now begin to whittle down due to an infusion of stimulus money that has enabled it to double its staff and buy new equipment.
The Ohio report shows that clean energy investments – beyond the long-term environmental and economic benefits they deliver from reduced pollution and less dependence on fossil fuels – have far-reaching ripple effects throughout the entire economy, and are a smart way to rebuild our economy in a way for the long haul.
Associate Director and Senior Policy Analyst, Frontier Group
Tony Dutzik is associate director and senior policy analyst with Frontier Group. His research and ideas on climate, energy and transportation policy have helped shape public policy debates across the U.S., and have earned coverage in media outlets from the New York Times to National Public Radio. A former journalist, Tony lives and works in Boston.