The quest to be “green” has spawned countless proposals, programs, laws and advertising campaigns. In Washington, DC a “Green Jobs Advisory Council” is promoting policies for green buildings, energy efficiency, renewable energy, city infrastructure, and lower carbon emissions.
Better sequencing of traffic lights speeds commuters to their workplaces, saves gasoline, cuts pollution, and reduces accidents. Better insulation reduces energy expenditures – and pays back investments in several years. Concentrated juice, laundry detergent and other products reduce packaging, shipping and storage costs.
Redesigned systems and energy-efficient computers and servers mean big savings in power-hungry data centers that facilitate banking, You Tube videos, Internet searches and modern business operations.
Initiatives like these create jobs – “green-collar jobs” in the vernacular of activists, politicians, PR firms and companies. Renewable energy and energy efficiency (RE&EE) industries already generate 8.5 million jobs in the United States, claims a 2007 report from the American Solar Energy Society, and could create “as many as 40 million jobs by 2030.”
That may happen, or may be wishful thinking. It depends on how terms are defined – and whether hype and hope are distinguished from reality, practicality and unintended consequences.
The ASES report includes direct and indirect employment associated with retrofitting buildings, installing insulation or solar panels, constructing transmission lines from wind farms, producing biofuels and fuel-efficient vehicles, designing and manufacturing supplies for projects – even accountants, lawyers, salesmen, repairmen, truck drivers, landscapers, bureaucrats and lobbyists.
Many projects represent sound economics. Others would not survive without mandates, renewable energy standards and taxpayer-financed subsidies that the Wall Street Journal says are 100 times greater per unit of energy produced than those enjoyed by oil and gas
Moreover, money and time spent by government and business on green-collar initiatives isn’t available to address critical problems like teenage mothers, absentee fathers, crime, AIDS, drug abuse, dropouts from failing schools, soaring gasoline and heating bills, or dilapidated apartment buildings, roads and bridges.
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