Real Progress In The Move To A Green Economy

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Often, large reports on trends put out by think tanks are a waste of paper or server storage space. Often, the documents are tainted by the political bias of the source of funds for these organizations. It is a bit of fresh air that Brookings has published “Sizing the Clean Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment.” It demonstrates that, unlike what some might think, solutions to environmental problems are not a cost drag on the limited funds of federal and state governments and yield a tangible revenue contributions.

The Brookings report goes so far as to show what each of the top 100 American cities by population has been able to add in jobs as part of green initiatives. Almost all of these jobs pay better than the median wage for each urban area analyzed.

“The clean economy is manufacturing and export intensive. Roughly 26 percent of all clean economy jobs lie in manufacturing establishments, compared to just 9 percent in the broader economy. On a per job basis, establishments in the clean economy export roughly twice the value of a typical U.S. job ($20,000 versus $10,000),” the report says. In a period in which U.S. manufacturing has been in a multi-decade decline, the data give hope that there could be at least a modest resurrection in the sector.

The report also shows that green businesses added 565,337 net new jobs in America between 2003 and 2010. That seems modest, but really is not, especially in a period in which the U.S. economy struggles to add a few thousand jobs a month and in which government austerity measures are likely to cause tens of thousands of layoffs.

Also encouraging is where many of the new jobs have been added. This new employment is often in some of America’s old cities that have been ravaged by changes in the U.S. job base in the last thirty or forty years. Green jobs have begun to fill in for some positions that have been lost and will never come back. Among the top ten markets with most jobs from green initiative are Albany, Toledo, Harrisburg, Little Rock, and Springfield, MA.

Something good is almost certain to come from the publication of “Sizing the Clean Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment.” Public policy about employment creation is often based on projections of where jobs may be added in the future and in what industries. Brookings has taken some guesswork out of that. Public funds have found an actual return in “green.”

Douglas A. McIntyre