Green jobs may help CA out of recession

September 18, 2009 7:16:53 PM PDT
Green technology is sparking hope that could help pull California out of a recession. On Friday, the governor visited a synthetic biology company in South San Francisco. But will the so-called "green jobs" really drive the economy?

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This may be a matter of "wanting to believe," that the green economy will be the one panacea to rescue California. But how well we do in the next several years, will depend on how well we compete globally and whether we can keep jobs in our state.

Governor Schwarzenegger has said time and again, this is the era of green jobs.

He visited Solazyme, a South San Francisco company which takes biomass, like sugar cane and saw dust and then puts it through a process using algae that is then converted into crude oil.

Even a representative of the French government was there to learn about this technology.

"The only area right now that we see really great growth is in green technology which proves our point that you can protect the economy and the environment at the same time," said Gov. Schwarzenegger R-CA.

In the past year, even during this recession, Solazyme hired about 20 employees. Today there are 65 people working here.

Despite Solazyme's growth, it's hasn't been easy for other green companies which rely on venture capitalists for funding.

"There was a period of time early this year, when nothing was happening so even good companies that had real technology couldn't raise money because things were frozen, but that has changed and there are deals happening now so hopefully we are on the way up now," said Harrison Dillon from Solazyme.

Or are we? The governor says green jobs promote employment growth.

But that may be a myth. Some critics say some low paying manufacturing jobs in the green sector may begin to replace blue collar jobs which offer good benefits, decent wages and job security.

Others believe when it comes to competing with other countries, and keeping jobs here, California and the U.S. stand to lose the battle unless there is more government assistance.

Devon Swezey is with The Breakthrough Institute, an Oakland-based think tank group on energy and climate issues.

"The Chinese government is offering substantial support in terms of credit guarantees, loan guarantees, low cost financing to directly grow their solar manufacturing industry. The chinese government is engaged in the productive policy of support for this industry in the way the US is not or has never been," said Swezey.

According to the Governor's Office, since 2005 so-called green jobs have grown 10 times faster than the total job growth in California. But critics says that comes at a price because the green industry is heavily subsidized and many believe when tax payer money supports some jobs, other jobs in businesses paying those higher taxes are likely to be lost.

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