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Remember green jobs? They were supposed to be a win-win for America, simultaneously creating new skilled jobs and moving us toward sustainability. But, as Michelle Chen details, the momentum has died:
Though federal green initiatives have provided vital seed money for wind farms and solar-generation projects nationwide, the blue-collar workers who have the most to gain from the projected clean-tech boom are still struggling to find any job, much less a green one.

Of course, green jobs are not the boondoggle portrayed by right-wingers. Solar panel companies and green building firms are hiring people, just not fast enough to dent the unemployment figures. In 2012 and 2013, several hundred projects related to renewables and green infrastructure were announced, potentially generating more than 180,000 green job openings, according to the green-tech advocacy group Environmental Entrepreneurs. But new investments have waned recently, in part due to lags in government supports. For example, many freshly announced new wind projects were halted abruptly in late 2012 when Congress delayed the renewal of a critical wind-production tax credit (goaded by aggressive lobbying from the dirty fuels industry). And the investment climate remains unstable, as another batch of credits remains in limbo for 2014.

Such setbacks demonstrate not only the crucial role of government investment but also the endemic unreliability of capital as the driver of an eco-conscious economic transition.

Capital has failed even more dramatically to match the hype around “green-collar jobs” as an employment program. Overall, even with the expansion of green-oriented businesses in the manufacturing, construction and technology sectors, workers involved in “green goods and services” made up under 3 percent of total employment in 2011.

It's really sad. This is valuable work that business and government alike should be investing in—and it is an investment, something that will yield massive benefits over the years. And while the potential for a lot of jobs right now was overhyped, there should, in the long run, be jobs in green energy and retrofitting and more—and they should pay well, not be just another class of new low-wage work. But all this promise is falling victim to climate change denial, Republican refusal to invest in America's future (or at least its non-military future) and shortsightedness on the part of business.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 10:27 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Precious little money was spend on the Recovery- (4+ / 0-)

    By many estimates, the "stimulus" was about 4x TOO SMALL.

    How are "green jobs" supposed to contend with that?

    Everywhere I look I see areas that more spending would have made a difference.  But political will, even on the Presidential Level to label an obstructor an obstructor didn't exist in 2009 or even 2013.  Took a government shutdown to get someone to start (FINALLY) with some anemic executive orders.

    /sheesh

    Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
    I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
    —Spike Milligan

    by polecat on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 10:34:12 AM PDT

    •  war machine (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hirodog

      Americans spend their money on their war machine which every empire in history has done to their own self destruction.

      Also the interest payments on their huge debt.

      And of course on dog and cat food. :-)

      Think of the green jobs that would be created if corp oil did not get all that free money and wall street was  regulated.

    •  Fear Factor (0+ / 0-)

      Once again the Republicans have succeeded with the name game.  By labeling job creation expenditures as just government handouts to the undeserving poor, they have effectively stymied all of these programs.  The Democrats, not wanting to seem reckless or wasteful in the falsely described era of booming deficits have not pushed for these needed programs.  

      It seems all it takes for a minority of representatives to prevent the government from fulfilling the expressed will of the people is to misname a program and then keep insisting that the particular program is responsible for or will be responsible for some economic disaster involving deficits.  The truth of the statements are irrelevant- as was once said "Repeat a big lie often enough and people will begin to believe it."  Still this fact does not excuse the Democrats for not countering the lie or  for refusing to act for the good of the country.

  •  combined infrastructure projects needed (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Glen The Plumber, Egalitare

    for expanded labor demand with construction and support of transcontinental high speed rail would require electrical power that could be hybrid multi-modal renewable and combine renewable infrastucture all along the right-of-way as its transformed to high-speed roadbed.... the vision needs to be more expansive....

    A vactrain (or vacuum tube train) is a proposed, as-yet-unbuilt design for future high-speed railroad transportation. It is a maglev line run through evacuated (air-less) or partly evacuated tubes or tunnels. The lack of air resistance could permit vactrains to use little power and to move at extremely high speeds, up to 4000–5000 mph (6400–8000 km/h, 2 km/s), or 5–6 times the speed of sound (Mach 1) at standard conditions.[1] Though the technology is currently being investigated for development of regional networks, advocates have suggested establishing vactrains for transcontinental routes to form a global network.
    Such setbacks demonstrate not only the crucial role of government investment but also the endemic unreliability of capital as the driver of an eco-conscious economic transition. Capital has failed even more dramatically to match the hype around “green-collar jobs” as an employment program. Overall, even with the expansion of green-oriented businesses in the manufacturing, construction and technology sectors, workers involved in “green goods and services” made up under 3 percent of total employment in 2011.

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 10:39:58 AM PDT

    •  asdf (3+ / 0-)

      Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

      by annieli on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 10:43:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  There was a vacuum train in England... (0+ / 0-)

         ...many, many years ago. I believe it was described in the book, "The Great Iron Ship," which is the story of the Great Eastern, a gigantic steamship with a double hull, built before the U.S. Civil War...

         Anyway, the book details a bit about a vacuum train, where a sort of prong on the lead car, what would be the "engine," runs in a tube that has a lubricated flap. If I remember, the limitation was their inability to seal the flexible flap edges.

         Of course, this is not at all what's proposed here, I just thought it might interest you!

      Best, HH99

      Compost for a greener planet.............got piles?

      by Hoghead99 on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 06:54:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Surely the scores of jobs... (0+ / 0-)

    …that would be generated by KXL would "solve" this :-P

    Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. --Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Egalitare on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 11:01:02 AM PDT

  •  More change we can believe in. n/t (0+ / 0-)

    Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

    by corvo on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 11:18:30 AM PDT

    •  Actually the green jobs we do have are pretty much (0+ / 0-)

      99% thanks to Obama and the stimulus so...

      •  Which will bring us back to Do . . . (0+ / 0-)

        namely, the appalling puniness of the stimulus as proposed.

        Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

        by corvo on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 02:59:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  And isn't this... (0+ / 0-)

        A failure of Green Investment, not Green Jobs?  The jobs are good.  They cannot be off-shored.  It is the failure to invest in them from which we suffer.

        If we do not maintain Justice, Justice will not maintain us. -Sir Francis Bacon.

        by Res Ipsa Loquitor on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 08:36:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  How Many More Bridges Will Have to Crumble (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dirtandiron, Hoghead99, BYw

    before we go after the tax money in the Caymens?

    Stay tuned!

  •  High-speed rail network - too ambitious (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hoghead99, Simplify

    First, I'm a train nut.  I love reading about the days when there really was good passenger rail service all over the country.  When I was younger, I rode several "name" trains and remember the experiences fondly.  One of my favorite things about Europe (western Europe, at least) is the railroads.  Although my own experience goes only as far as the old TEEs, it would almost be worth the price of air fare to visit again, just to ride the TGV and other high-speed lines.  When I lived in DC, the only way I'd go to New York and back was by Metroliner (and by train even before that).  Having said that, high-speed rail is a tough row to hoe in this country.  A national system just isn't cost-effective.  High-speed rail works between and among cities about 250-300 miles apart where there really is demand for such a service.  The east coast corridor is a case in point.  It makes sense between DC and New York (with a couple of stops in between) and it makes sense between Boston and New York (ditto), but from Boston to DC, flying is probably the better option (much as I dislike it).  I could see it between Chicago and several cities in the Midwest, or between Cleveland and Cincinnati.  It makes sense in Texas (triangle between San Antonio, Dallas-Ft. Worth, and Houston).  Theoretically it might make sense in CA and the concept was a good one, but the implementation has been horrible and has shown the pitfalls that can be involved.

    First, true high-speed service, service that runs at speeds that can challenge air travel times (on a portal-portal basis), needs dedicated right-of-way, free of all grade crossings and with no competing traffic except on station approaches and departures.  It also can't stop at every crossroads.  It has to serve major cities; it can be connected to smaller towns by local rail service, but the fast train can't stop all that frequently between termini.  In CA, instead of building a right-of-way dedicated to HSR along the already existing I-5 corridor, the state was swayed by local politics to run the thing up the central valley, stopping at every crossroads.  The proposal for a dedicated right-of-way was scrubbed with the result that travel times will be nowhere near those originally forecast.  And for some mind-numbingly stupid reason, they decided to start the project in the middle of nowhere.  In consequence, those of us who live in the LA or Bay areas may not see it in our lifetimes, if it is built at all.  Most, if not all, of the original enthusiasm for the project is gone.  The legislature will kill it entirely, given half a chance.

    We don't need to think in terms of a national high-speed railway net, but in terms of a series of high-speed short trips and we need to be mindful of confining HSR investments to corridors in which taking the train will take about the same amount of time as flying.

    "The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough to those who have little. " --Franklin D. Roosevelt

    by jg6544 on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 01:32:44 PM PDT

    •  While I agree.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Res Ipsa Loquitor, Hirodog

         ...with most everything you've said, and I think most people would, I'd still like to see coast-to-coast, just because we can, dagnabit. Who gives a heck if it's not quite cost-effective? I'd rather do without an aircraft carrier group than the HS rail...

      Compost for a greener planet.............got piles?

      by Hoghead99 on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 06:59:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Here-Here! (0+ / 0-)

        Boston/New York/D.C ->Albany/Philly/Baltimore -> Pittsburgh -> Cleveland -> Chicago -> St. Louis -> Des Moines -> Omaha -> Denver -> SLC -> Boise/Reno/Las Vegas -> Portland/Oakland/ L.A.

        Three branches on each coast.  One trunk line between.  And when you set up the right-of-way, run another parallel freight line (probably with grade crossings), create the steel interstate, and take thousands of long-haul trucks off the road.  

        I like the way you think.  

        If we do not maintain Justice, Justice will not maintain us. -Sir Francis Bacon.

        by Res Ipsa Loquitor on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 08:50:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Green jobs took a hard hit during (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dirtandiron

    the banking crisis. It was nearly impossible to get capital for any small business -- let alone a start up developing a new product that might have a release to market time longer than the shelf life on their patent (or other such). That, and the money that was supposed to be reserved to guarantee capital to green businesses kept getting siphoned into other projects.

    Banks and venture capitalists just did not pony up.

    Our green economy got stalled, no doubt. But it isn't a failure. It's just going to happen later than we (and Obama) had hoped. The GOP loves to spin that.

    "It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into." --Jonathan Swift

    by rb137 on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 06:38:30 PM PDT

  •  Why are government incentives (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brightlights

    needed now that wind and solar are so freakin' cheap? (as documented in numerous diaries right here at DailyKos)

    In a way this is a case where if government simply got out of the way, a lot more progress could be made.  

  •  Just imagine (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hoghead99

    How much "seed money for wind farms and solar-generation projects" would have been given out to green projects under President McCain and President Romney.

    As much trouble as I have with President Obama's environmental programs and policies, I try to maintain some balance by imagining what might have been. If the speaker of the house were Nancy Pelosi, I might have been appreciably more upset. I take a deep breath and try to relax.

    What stronger breast-plate than a heart untainted! Thrice is he arm'd, that hath his quarrel just; And he but naked, though lock'd up in steel, Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted. Henry VI Part II Act 3 Scene 2

    by TerryDarc on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 06:41:08 PM PDT

    •  Ha! (0+ / 0-)

         Great point TerryDarc!

         I just can't get my head around how those butter-wouldn't-melt-in-their-mouth holy patriots keep holding the whole country back to advance the causes of the billionaires. Mind boggling!

      Compost for a greener planet.............got piles?

      by Hoghead99 on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 07:02:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The jobs will not come (0+ / 0-)

    until Republicans get out of the way, willingly or unwillingly.

    Marx was an optimist.

    by psnyder on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 06:45:39 PM PDT

  •  Militias With Guns Battling Solar Energy Projects (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hoghead99

    My reaction to the Bundy ranch standoff - notice the militias were all geared up to fight an imaginary Chinese solar energy project?

    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    OK, so now we have white supremacists, the notorious cop killing Sovereign Citizens (notice Bundy's frequent use of "Sovereign?"), and miscellaneous heavily armed inbreds roaming the west looking for a fight to the death over solar energy?

    They are ready to save America from iron heel of solar energy and the Communists who are here to steal our.... sunshine? .... I think that still needs work.  And they want to free up that federal land for fracking and pipelines and oil shale strip mines so big you'll be able to see them from the moon, making much of the west a poisonous waterless slag heap.  

    Pipelines and oil shale.... fascist conspiracy nuts .... seeing commies under the bed ......mobilizing the goober base .... battling alternative energy .... right wing media....Who do think is behind it?  This reeks of the Koch brothers.

    Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

    by bernardpliers on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 06:50:07 PM PDT

  •  Is Citizens United to blame? (0+ / 0-)

    One theory states that many Republicans were willing to talk about climate change when they didn't have to worry about super PACs coming after them, but now almost none of them want anything to do with it. This is why the House has held a record-breaking number of votes on bills that would permanently gut almost all environmental protections.

  •  Here's the basic problem (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hoghead99, 6412093, BYw

    as seen by me, a non-economist. The private sector is pretty good at investing in and implementing short to mid-term capital investments in which there's a fairly predictable and decent rate of return, especially in existing and proven industries. E.g. expanding manufacturing capacity in established industries like autos, appliances, processed foods, consumer goods, etc. They're familiar and comfortable with such investments and know how they're likely to pay off.

    Sure, there's also speculative "investment", which is not investment at all but literally gambling in various financial markets without any net benefit to the overall economy (and lots of net damage in the capital that it removes from more productive investments). But it too is fairly predictable, and the high risk that it entails is offset by the not unreasonable belief that government will always backstop any serious losses, as it did in the 2008 crash.

    What the private sector is not good at, never has been, and likely never will be, is long-term investing in new, emerging and unproven industries in which startup investment costs are enormous compared to in established industries. Government has always had to step in with startup financing, planning and initiative to get new industries going. This is how it's always worked.

    In the 19th century this meant canals, steamships, railroads, steel, telegraph and electric light. None of these industries were established solely with private investment and initiative. All required the financial help and political push of government. The costs were simply too high, the risks too great, and the unknowns too many, for the private sector to establish these industries by itself. It needed government to get the ball rolling and push it along.

    Same with the "green" industries, e.g. non-fossil fuel energy production, electric cars, high-speed rail, etc. They're never going to take off without massive government investment and involvement. The "free market" doesn't like risk and innovation. It likes what it knows, and new industries it doesn't know, or like. Either government steps in, or nothing will happen.

    Alexander Hamilton understood this over 200 years ago. That economic idiot Jefferson did not, and stood in his way, and his loony ideas about money and finance are what the tea party and today's GOP are based on, in part (racism being the other thing they're based on, also a Jeffersonian legacy).

    "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

    by kovie on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 06:55:06 PM PDT

  •  She is clueless about Green Jobs (0+ / 0-)

    The US has billions in private contracts building out Solar Farms in Arizona, California, Texas, including massive Wind Farms.

    There are thousands of jobs to build these facilities.

    They aren't on government web sites. The funding is dispersed. They are with corporations.

    You want to work in Green Energy, go build one of 3 new Data Centers for Apple in Nevada, Oregon and more.

    Go be part of the $6 Billion new headquarters in Cupertino.

    100% Green Energy compliant campus being built to house around 15k-18k new jobs.

    It's on 150 acres being built.
    http://www.cupertino.org/...

    California Solar Projects:

    http://www.energy.ca.gov/...

    Several being developed.

    I can cite Arizona and a dozen other states.

    SHE DOESN'T KNOW WHAT SHE'S WRITING ON.

    •  Thanks for the detailed diary on an important (0+ / 0-)

      topic.  We need this discussion as part of defusing the jobs v. environment quandary.

      And mdriftmeyer, did you notice how the vast majority of projects in your links to the CEC are suspended and never built?

      That's a litany of the problems we face, and what this diary is about; the unbuilt solar, wind and geothermal projects, among others.

      “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

      by 6412093 on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 10:04:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's more than "valuable work". (0+ / 0-)

    It's a solution to virtually every problem we have.
    Climate
    Economy
    Race
    Etc.

    You can't make this stuff up.

    by David54 on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 07:09:03 PM PDT

  •  In Ohio, Kasich personally killed 15K Green Jobs (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    6412093, BYw, Hirodog

    His hand-picked PUCO killed the Turning Point Solar project (50 MW solar PV with locally produced panels), he turned back $450 MM in federal high speed rail funds, and he spiked funding for Cleveland's LEEDCO offshore wind project.

     He was and is a one man wrecking crew out to kill green jobs wherever he finds them. He is wholly beholden to the coal producers and the coal-burning, investor owned utilities that finance his campaigns.

    Sadly, this scenario has been replicated in numerous other  states, all owing to GOP gains in the 2010 Wave Election.

    Don't blame the Feds. These Republican 'Wave Governors' have used state regulatory policy to kill these jobs.

    They need to be replaced In November if we're serious about creating new jobs in a green energy economy. (Hint: we'll need help from Blue State contributors to make that happen).

  •  If Congress can be flushed out (0+ / 0-)

    of some of the worst of the RW element, there could be a chance that some legislation will get through as there are some [not many] GOP who will vote for alternative energy bills.

    The balance is closer there, than just based upon Party line votes in some cases.

    (And yes, I know there are some Ds who vote for interests of the fossil fuel and nuke lobbies.)

    Republicans totally abandoned conservatism in the 1980s ..

    by shpilk on Sat Apr 26, 2014 at 12:11:31 AM PDT

  •  I'm now living in Spain, and (0+ / 0-)

    Europe is way ahead of the U.S. on solar and wind.  It is embarrassing.

  •  I wouldn't call it "failure"... (0+ / 0-)
    ...aggressive lobbying from the dirty fuels industry...climate change denial, Republican refusal to invest in America's future...
    ...as much as...well, is "sabotage" too strong a word?
  •  Remember when Van Jones was our Green... (0+ / 0-)

    ...Jobs Czar, ahh, that was a great 6 months of liberalism from the Obama White House.

  •  This quote explains it all - (0+ / 0-)

    "...Congress delayed the renewal of a critical wind-production tax credit (goaded by aggressive lobbying from the dirty fuels industry)."

    So let's unpack the true and deep meaning of that statement, shall we?  The leaders of today's energy industry, which was built with the help of government subsidies and still, to this day, receives massive and UNNECESSARY government subsidies, wants to make sure that some upstart, nascent industry, that does the same thing they do only BETTER (cleaner, more sustainable, healthier), CANNOT receive the same kinds of subsidies.

    Fair description of the agenda?

    OF COURSE the New Right is wrong - but that doesn't make WRONG the new RIGHT!

    by mstaggerlee on Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 12:08:47 PM PDT

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