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The Expensive, Elusive Green Job

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issue brief

The Expensive, Elusive Green Job

September 5, 2012
Energy & EnvironmentOther

The Obama administration has directed billions of taxpayer dollars toward programs intended to accelerate the development of a “green” economy centered on renewable energy, pollution reduction, and conservation. Such spending is a waste of government funds at a time when the federal government is running annual deficits of over a trillion dollars. The 3.1 million green jobs that have been created are primarily preexisting jobs that have been reclassified as green, and at a very high cost per worker.

What exactly is a “green job?” As we have seen from recent figures on job creation, averaging just 75,000 per month in the second quarter of 2012, creating new jobs is hard work. It is far easier to simply redefine an existing job as a “green job” than it is to create an actual new job.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) at the Department of Labor is responsible for defining green jobs under Title X of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, signed into law by President George W. Bush. The bill authorized funding for green-collar job training, including retrofitting buildings, installing solar panels and setting up wind farms, and building energy efficient buildings.

The bill authorized funds for states to offer grants for labor management training programs and apprenticeships, in order to coordinate green jobs programs with union officials.[1] Other sections contained incentives for construction of green buildings, with particular reference to federal buildings.[2]

BLS decides which jobs are green. Sometimes these jobs qualify for tax preferences or subsidies. For example, our transportation policy is based on green jobs, with 20 percent of Highway Trust Funds reserved for mass transit. Tax subsidies are given to electric vehicles, both for companies to produce them and Americans to buy them.

BLS has defined green jobs either as “jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources,” or as “jobs in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.”[3]