Thursday, August 25, 2011

On green job schemes

As a counter to Margaret Wente today, "Message to McGuinty: Most green-job schemes have been miserable failures," who relies in part for her view on a New York Times report of last week, I suggest the following reading: "Absurd NY Times Story on Green Jobs Ignores “Explosive Growth” Documented in the Sector." There, the New York Times report she relies upon is thoroughly debunked. See for example this excerpt:
Imagine if, in 1963, two years after JFK’s famous speech to Congress, the New York Times had run a story, “Space program fails to live up to promise.” That will give you some idea of how bad a recent NYT story on the clean energy economy was, “Number of Green Jobs Fails to Live Up to Promises.”

The story is triply terrible: It’s incorrect and premature and misleading. So of course it has been quoted endlessly by the right-wing media. It’s sad when the U.S. press isn’t any better than the UK press (see “Over Half the Coverage of Renewable Energy in Mainstream British Press is Negative“).

First, the core inaccuracy:
A study released in July by the non-partisan Brookings Institution found clean-technology jobs accounted for just 2 percent of employment nationwide and only slightly more — 2.2 percent — in Silicon Valley. Rather than adding jobs, the study found, the sector actually lost 492 positions from 2003 to 2010 in the South Bay, where the unemployment rate in June was 10.5 percent.
Talk about a bait and switch. The NYT cites the Brookings study, but then pulls out one tiny piece of it to make the exact opposite argument of the study. As Climate Progress wrote, Brookings actually found nationwide:
From 2003 to 2010, the clean economy grew by 8.3% — almost double what the overall economy grew during those years….

The pace of growth really is torrid in that sector,” says Mark Muro, a senior fellow at Brookings Metropolitan Program and a co-author of the report. “This confirms the intuition that these exciting industries really are growing as fast as we think they are.”
On top of that, median salaries for cleantech-related jobs are $46,343, or about $7,727 more than the median wages across the broader economy. But you’d never know that from the NYT hit job.
It goes on from there. But the Brookings point on the pace of growth undercuts Wente's piece sufficiently given how extensively she cites U.S. examples. Government efforts to stoke green job growth rates seem to be on the right track. (As an additional note on the credibility of the Times piece, Van Jones, a former Obama administration official who was quoted in it has clarified his quotes that were used in that report in a misleading way to portray him as critical of the Obama administration's green energy efforts.)

See also "Pushing back on a bad Green Jobs story" for a report on a tour through Midwest clean energy factories that also countered the New York Times piece and the slagging of green jobs in general.

One other item for those considering Wente's opinion that the "green dream is a mirage." Here's an interesting indicator, business schools in the U.S. are responding to increasing demand from business and their students for sustainability education skills:
“Through the roof” is how Adam Zak, an executive recruiter, describes the demand for workers with sustainability-related job skills. “We estimate about a 40 percent increase over last year in the search assignments we are asked to conduct for these kinds of individuals,” said Mr. Zak, whose clients include companies like Coca-Cola, Andersen Windows and Del Monte.

To meet this demand will require qualified workers. So a growing number of graduate business programs are offering electives in topics like carbon accounting, corporate social responsibility and lean manufacturing techniques to reduce waste and environmental impact.
Demand from students is also driving business schools to include more social and environmental topics in their curriculum, and hard economic times has not dampened this demand. “The economic downturn has caused some deep soul searching among this generation,” Ms. Maw said, adding that “they want to incorporate their desires to change the world into their careers now, and many are seeing business school as a way to help them make a career change or deepen their skills.”
"Through the roof." That seems to fit with the Brookings numbers. Seems like governments who support green job growth are thinking the same way a lot of businesses are at the moment.