Critics Take Less Than Rosy View of Push for Green Jobs

Article excerpt

JUST WHAT IS 'GREEN'?

A growing number of proponents claim that creating so-called "green jobs" can help revive the economy.

President Barack Obama has made energy reform a priority in his economic recovery strategy, along with health care and education. The $787 billion economic stimulus package included about $50 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy as well as $500 million for green-jobs training.

Yet critics say that the notion of green work is amorphous, making it impossible to determine how many can be employed in the sector. Two recent Capitol Hill hearings on green jobs failed to produce a consensus definition.

In a research brief for the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, senior project manager Jennifer Geary and project manager Allison Kopicki suggested that green jobs are any occupation that protects the environment or reduces energy consumption.

"Green-jobs workers will include construction workers, cost estimators, financial analysts, computer technicians, accountants, manufacturing workers, truck drivers, salespersons, scientists, engineers and many others - as long as their jobs have something to do with energy conservation or increasing the supply of renewable energy sources," Cleary and Kopicki wrote.

One skeptic asserts that enthusiasm for green jobs is being generated by interest groups that can claim the government funding that goes along with them.

"What's a green job? It's whatever a lobbyist can convince a member of Congress it is," says William Bogart, dean of academic affairs at York College in Pennsylvania. "These jobs do not last when these credits are not in place."

Bogart also questions the assumption that green jobs will be filled by people who are currently unemployed. It's more likely that incumbent workers will take them.

"You're adding a green job and taking away a job of another color," Bogart says. …