The American public has become familiar with many new political phrases since the start of the Obama administration: Jobs saved or created. Bending the cost curve. And, of course, green jobs. As with all political catch-phrase, Americans should be warned: what they think the term means and the actual policies advanced in its name are often very different things.
President Obama has made the creation of green jobs a centerpiece of his economic agenda. Becoming the “world leader in developing the clean energy technologies that will lead to the industries and jobs of tomorrow” is described by the Administration as “critical to the future of our country.” They are investing billions in pursuit of this goal. http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/factsheet_key_clean_energy/
The 2009 stimulus bill made a massive investment in “green” enterprises: a $6 billion loan guarantee program targeted to green industry, $5 billion for weatherization assistance, $11 billion for “smart grid” technology and modernized high-tech transmission lines, and $500 million to help train workers for green-related careers. The new budget doubles down with similar “green” investments: hundreds of millions for the research and development of new energy technologies, billions of tax breaks for companies investing in clean energy projects, and $74 million for initiatives to “inspire tens of thousands of young Americans to pursue a career in clean energy.”
Just what are American taxpayers getting for this investment? The Administration has struggled to quantify how many jobs were created by last summer's stimulus; identifying government-created “green jobs” is an even more difficult task. Part of the problem is defining exactly what counts as a “green job.” Employment produced by some initiatives--weatherization support and improving buildings' energy-efficiency--are almost indistinguishable from regular construction jobs. Even the money focused on producing “green” energy products, like solar panels and wind turbines, has effects that trickle far outside “green” sectors since the production process requires raw materials and transportation, which cut across the general economy.