Green Collar Jobs: A Whole New Industry?by Tim Manni
As in the past and now in the present, auto manufacturing — the US’s most prominent industry — has struggled mightily during economic downturns. What sets future recovery apart from the past is the potential for the development of a new industry: “green collar jobs.” As Americans struggle with poor employment markets and wage decreases, the potential for a budding new industry that could supply millions of jobs has become an important point of focus for voters and presidential candidates alike. Both presidential candidates support the growth and progress of green collar jobs. I originally discovered a blog post on ClarkHoward.com that introduced me to the idea of green collar jobs as a growing industry.
Presidential candidates talk about the promise of “green collar” jobs — an economy with millions of workers installing solar panels, weatherizing homes, brewing biofuels, building hybrid cars and erecting giant wind turbines. Labor unions view these new jobs as replacements for positions lost to overseas manufacturing and outsourcing. Urban groups view training in green jobs as a route out of poverty. And environmentalists say they are crucial to combating climate change.
No doubt that the number of green-collar jobs is growing, as homeowners, business and industry shift toward conservation and renewable energy. And the numbers are expected to increase greatly in the next few decades, because state governments have mandated that even more energy come from alternative sources.
Every major auto maker is currently designing or implementing either hybrid and/or electric vehicles. Wind and solar energy have become front runners in alternate forms of energy. Even oil tycoons are realizing the monetary potential in green forms of energy:
Veteran oil man T. Boone Pickens recently told The Guardian of his planned $10 billion wind power investment in Texas: “Don’t get the idea that I’ve turned green. My business is making money, and I think this is going to make a lot of money.”
Critics of green collar jobs argue the phrase holds little weight for future potential. Skeptics fear the term “green collar jobs” is little more than a catchphrase, that will if anything will replace blue collar jobs:
It can be difficult to parse the difference between green- and blue-collar jobs. Dave Foster, executive director of the Blue Green Alliance, a partnership between the United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club, pointed to workers who mine iron ore in Minnesota and ship it to steel mills in Indiana. “Ten years ago, that steel was used for making low-efficiency automobiles, so those jobs were part of the dirty economy,” he said. “But now that steel is being used to build wind turbines. So now you can call them green jobs.”
This topic was heavily circulated through news outlets this past spring. Discussion eventually waned because the subject wouldn’t most likely be acted upon until the new president and Congress took office. As the election heats up, only three months away, both the environment and the economy have become topics at the forefront of the election. Since green collar jobs are directly related to both subjects, keep your ears peeled for discussion and legislation in the very near future.