Friday, August 26, 2011

The Columbia Jounalism Review on Green Jobs

Is it just me or does this arguement seem soooo last decade?
The essence of the green jobs debate is government subsidies. If the energy produced was cost competitive there would be no reason for utilities to delay implementation.
We see this scenario each time a BTU from natural gas trades for less than a BTU from coal. The electricity producers switch to natural gas.
(with some slippage)

The question with the subsidies is not whether or not they work but whether they are the highest use for finite financial resources.
If the U.S. decided it was in the country's interest to have a nation of whittlers you could, with enough subsidy, put all the unemployed to work. Is that the way to go?
[what if you count the value of the wood chips as biomass to create electricity? -ed]

This is getting to be a long introduction, I'll come back to the policy, fiscal and financial issues next month. In the meantime here's the CJR's The Observatory blog on recent reporting and commentary:
Gamey Green Jobs Coverage
On Tuesday, climate blogger Joseph Romm blasted a New York Times article about green jobs for ignoring “explosive” growth in that sector. It was valid criticism even though Romm, in turn, had some distortions of his own.

The Times’s piece argues that President Obama’s pledge to create 5 million green jobs over ten years, and California Governor Jerry Brown’s promise to create five-hundred thousand clean-technology jobs in the state by the end of the decade, look like “a pipe dream.” Produced by the San Francisco-based Bay Citizen, which provides coverage of the Bay Area to the Times, the article is pegged, in part, to a July report by the Brookings Institute and Battelle’s Technology Partnership Practice, which assessed green jobs nationally and regionally.

“[The study] found clean-technology jobs accounted for just 2 percent of employment nationwide and only slightly more — 2.2 percent — in Silicon Valley,” according to the article, which was published on August 19. “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.”

It’s a selective quotation from the report that supports the thesis presented in the article’s headline: “Number of Green Jobs Fails to Live Up to Promises”—although it’s likely the Times wrote the headline to suit the Bay Citizen’s reporting. The Brookings report repeatedly acknowledges than such jobs are, for now, a “modest slice” of the US total, it is actually quite sanguine about progress in the “clean economy” and prospects for future growth.

“The clean economy increasingly looks like a promising location for the emergence of significant new technologies, processes, and industries that will shape the next economy and generate new jobs…” the report says, “Though modest in size, the clean economy employs more workers than the fossil fuel industry…”
Romm, who runs the blog Climate Progress for the liberal Center for American Progress, correctly charged that the article misled readers by ignoring many details of the report, as well as its overall message. Unfortunately, he too overplayed his hand. At one point, he quotes a contributor to his blog who had earlier reported that the Brookings report showed that, “From 2003 to 2010, the clean economy grew 8.3% — almost double what the overall economy grew during those years.”

In fact, between 2003 and 2010, the clean economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.4 percent, compared to the national economy’s 4.2 percent. It was only during the middle of the recession, from 2008 to 2009, that the clean economy grew faster, at a rate of 8.3 percent, than the rest of the economy. And that was “likely due, in part, to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which channeled large sums of public spending towards clean energy projects,” the report noted.

Between 2003 and 2010, it was only the youngest and smallest sectors of the clean economy—thirteen of the thirty-nine sectors assessed in the report—that grew 8.3 percent annually. This was the “explosive” growth that Romm accused the Times and the Bay Citizen of ignoring. It pertains to the energy-related sectors (wind, solar, smart grid, etc.) that most reporters and the public associate with green jobs. Brookings chose the word “explosive” to describe the pace of job growth in those sectors. It also used the word “torrid.”...MORE