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Do 'green' jobs pay off?

A growing number of advocates, among them Governor Corzine and President Obama, believe that energy efficiency and renewable energy could not only help the environment but replace jobs lost in the recession. Critics, however, say that's an expensive and unproven way to create jobs that will destroy jobs in other sectors, and in many cases will be little more than putting a green veneer on existing trades. "If you spend a billion dollars, sure you will create jobs," said William T. Bogart, an economic professor and dean of York College of Pennsylvania. "The question is, on net, how many?

Crouched in a dusty crawl space, Angelo Romano jammed a piece of fluffy orange insulation between two floor joists under an old single-family home in Englewood, his face flushed with exertion.

It's a far cry from the job Romano, 58, left 18 months ago, as a network processor for New York-based Con Edison, to find a new trade.

Yet his shift, to sealing homes for Hackensack-based Bergen County Community Action Program, puts him at the forefront of a trend toward "green" jobs championed by politicians, unions and businessmen alike.

A growing number of advocates, among them Governor Corzine and President Obama, believe that energy efficiency and renewable energy could not only help the environment but replace jobs lost in the recession.

Critics, however, say that's an expensive and unproven way to create jobs that will destroy jobs in other sectors, and in many cases will be little more than putting a green veneer on existing trades.

"If you spend a billion dollars, sure you will create jobs," said William T. Bogart, an economic professor and dean of York College of Pennsylvania. "The question is, on net, how many?

At issue are jobs that protect the environment, reduce energy use or curb... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Crouched in a dusty crawl space, Angelo Romano jammed a piece of fluffy orange insulation between two floor joists under an old single-family home in Englewood, his face flushed with exertion.

It's a far cry from the job Romano, 58, left 18 months ago, as a network processor for New York-based Con Edison, to find a new trade.

Yet his shift, to sealing homes for Hackensack-based Bergen County Community Action Program, puts him at the forefront of a trend toward "green" jobs championed by politicians, unions and businessmen alike.

A growing number of advocates, among them Governor Corzine and President Obama, believe that energy efficiency and renewable energy could not only help the environment but replace jobs lost in the recession.

Critics, however, say that's an expensive and unproven way to create jobs that will destroy jobs in other sectors, and in many cases will be little more than putting a green veneer on existing trades.

"If you spend a billion dollars, sure you will create jobs," said William T. Bogart, an economic professor and dean of York College of Pennsylvania. "The question is, on net, how many?

At issue are jobs that protect the environment, reduce energy use or curb greenhouse gas emissions. By most definitions, they fall into two categories: those that save energy and money by "weatherizing" buildings; and jobs that create renewable energy by solar, wind, geothermal or other means.

At present, energy efficiency jobs outnumber renewal energy jobs by almost 20-to-1, according to a recent Rutgers University report. But the ratio is expected to narrow to about 5-to-1 in the next two decades.

Corzine's energy master plan calls for New Jersey to create 20,000 green jobs by 2020, part of an effort to reduce the state's energy use by 20 percent over that period.

Obama's stimulus package, which is expected to create more than 500,000 green jobs, includes nearly $200 million for green programs in New Jersey.

But how much that will boost the state's economy is unclear, as are the number of jobs and the skills needed to do them. The most optimistic estimates of green job creation pale next to the 160,000 New Jersey jobs lost since the recession started.

"Right now, we are in a period where people are sculpting fog when it comes to green jobs," said Jennifer Cleary, a senior project manager at Rutgers University's John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, who studies the green job sector.

"Green jobs alone will only replace a portion of the large numbers of jobs lost in the construction, renewables and manufacturing sectors in recent years," she said.

The lack of clarity is partly due to the relative newness of the idea of the green industry as an economic stimulant. It's also because the outcome rests on so many variables, such as state and federal energy policies, the amount of green-targeted public investment and how property owners respond to incentives.

Estimates of the potential size of the green sector vary widely. The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, estimated New Jersey could add 57,000 jobs by investing $3.2 billion in public and private money on transportation, saving energy and other measures.

The Blue Green Alliance, a union-environmentalist partnership, last week predicted New Jersey could create more than 17,500 jobs if the nation required one-quarter of all energy to be renewable energy by 2025.

But Bogart, in a paper written with three other academics, argued that efforts that emphasize job creation rather than production would "generate stagnation."

"By focusing on low-productivity jobs, the green jobs literature dooms employees to low wages in a shrinking economy," they wrote, adding that green job predictions often don't account for jobs destroyed in the shift to green.

"Even if you keep the amount of power the same, but shift it from coal-fired plants to solar, what's going to happen to the people at the coal plant?" Bogart said.

A recent report by Pew Charitable Trusts in Philadelphia found that New Jersey had actually lost about 10 percent of its green jobs between 1998 and 2007.

But the report also said that New Jersey's receipt of more green-targeted venture capital than all but seven other states from 2006 to 2008 showed investors believe New Jersey has high potential for green innovation.

That kind of entrepreneurial impulse is evident in the efforts of North Jersey businesses. The state already ranks second in the nation, after California, in solar installation. And green projects are particularly attractive as the construction industry struggles to rebound from a historic slowdown.

That was the case for Warren Zysman, a partner at Garfield-based ARC Renewable Energy, who started a wind turbine installation business this year to combat a drop in his construction business. His first installation, for talk show star Jay Leno, will soon be completed in California. Growth in the business would create work for licensed electricians, crane operators, steel fabricators and others, Zysman said. But much of that may be outside New Jersey. The turbines, for instance, are made in Michigan, he said. And the most lucrative states are those such as California, with high electricity costs, and Florida, which has high government incentive packages, he said.

David Golvsholl, the founder and sole employee of Glen Rock-based ENERGi Eastern Natural Resource Group, hopes to see a tenfold growth in revenue for the business he started last year installing geothermal systems.

That would create 10 to 15 jobs - including heating and ventilation technicians, plumbers, drillers and excavators and engineers - in his company or for subcontractors, he said.

But public money is key to these businesses, as it is to the green sector as a whole. Obama's stimulus package, for instance, includes about $73 million for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in New Jersey and $118 million for weatherization projects.

New Jersey officials say the weatherization money will reduce energy consumption in 13,500 low-income homes and create 400 jobs for three years, based on estimates that eight to 11 jobs are created for each $1 million spent on weatherizing.

The jobs will include community outreach workers to solicit homeowners, technicians to conduct energy audits, workers to install weatherization materials, and supervisors.

State guidelines require contractors to pay all construction-related jobs $17.40 an hour and provide health benefits.

The work will be carried out mainly by non-profit community action programs. Bergen County's, for instance, will receive $5 million to weatherize 646 housing units, enabling the agency to quadruple its workforce to about 28.

That expansion is in line with Corzine's ambitious schedule to have the state weatherize 300,000 buildings a year by 2020, compared with fewer than 20,000 today.

Even if that's achieved, the impact on employment is unclear. What happens, for instance, to the ranks of power company workers if energy consumption is cut by 20 percent? And how many of the green jobs would be traditional jobs retooled with a green "tint"?

Quite a lot, according to a report by Cleary, and a Rutgers University colleague, Allison Kopicki, called "Preparing the workforce for a 'Green Jobs' Economy."

"The majority of green jobs in the nation's energy sector will not be new occupations in the immediate future, but rather traditional occupations that may require an additional layer of "green skills and knowledge," they wrote.


Source: http://www.northjersey.com/...

JUN 21 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/20745-do-green-jobs-pay-off
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