As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, February 27, 2009

The White House Goes All In On Green Jobs

Joe Biden presided over a summit in Philadelphia of his Middle Class Task Force today, and the subject was green jobs. Vice President Biden had an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer today making the case.

So what exactly are "green jobs"? They provide products and services that use renewable energy resources, reduce pollution, and conserve energy and natural resources.

Investing in green jobs also means keeping up with the modern economy. At a time when good jobs at good wages are harder and harder to come by, we must find new, innovative opportunities.

According to the Council of Economic Advisers, green jobs pay 10 to 20 percent more than other jobs. They also are more likely to be union jobs. Building a new power grid, manufacturing solar panels, weatherizing homes and office buildings, and renovating schools are just a few of the ways to create high-quality green jobs that strengthen the foundation of this country.

It's the ultimate win-win. Green jobs can revitalize impoverished communities by bringing back industry, increase unionization and the rise of the middle class, add to re-industrialization, reduce energy costs for the whole country, make us energy independent and save the planet. Most important at this point, they can help increase GDP, as Gar Lipow explains:

The main extra benefits economists overlook are the helpful side effects other than mitigating the climate crisis -- "positive externalities," in economic jargon.

For example, about half of all economic activity takes place in climate-conditioned buildings. Greening these buildings could increase[PDF] productivity [PDF] by around 10 percent. Similarly, switching most long-haul freight trucking miles to long-haul freight rail would increase productivity in transportation. Many energy-saving practices in industry, such as reducing scrapping and reducing spills and other types of emitting stoppages, would increase productivity as well. A switch to wind and solar would reduce labor productivity in the electricity sector; the conventional wisdom is that a switch to organic agriculture would do the same in that sector, though I think this is much less certain that people think. At any rate, sectors where productivity would rise greatly outnumber the tiny sectors where it might fall -- resulting in a huge net increase, probably greater than 5 percent for the economy as a whole.

Another example would be huge benefits to health. Eliminating or greatly reducing the use of fossil fuels would reduce air pollution, water pollution, and exposure to toxics. A switch to organic and low input agriculture would decrease direct ingestion of toxics, and increase available vitamins and minerals in food. Whether such a switch alone would encourage a switch to healthy increase in the consumption of non-starchy vegetables and fresh fruits I don't know, but it certainly could be part of policy that accomplished this. Overall, I think it is almost impossible that switching from fossil fuels to renewables and efficiency, that switching from toxic soil-consuming agriculture to non-toxic soil building agriculture, from unsustainable to sustainable forestry, would not increase GDP.

Because so much of the Administration's success depends on major increases in GDP after the recession ends to close the debt and reduce unemployment, they know that green jobs which can spur industrial growth are crucial. We're seeing much more activity in this area than even talked about during the campaign.

Here's a liveblog of the summit, with remarks from Biden and green jobs advocate Van Jones, among others. And here's a staff report from the White House going into more detail on the preferred policies on green jobs from the Administration, in the stimulus and beyond. Finally, the Departments of Energy and Housing & Urban Development have announced a partnership to spend $16 billion dollars in stimulus funds to retrofit and weatherize existing homes, lowering energy consumption in those homes by 20-40% and creating thousands of jobs.

These aren't bumper stickers or slogans, these are real policies that will have a lasting effect.

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