Green jobs existence coming under question

May 3, 2010 7:24:52 PM PDT
Green jobs are the promise of a great many politicians including those in the Obama administration, but there are an increasing number of reports from non-partisan researchers that question the existence of those jobs. ABC7 raised that issue with Obama's Assistant Secretary of Employment and Training Jane Oates.

Oates came to the Bay Area to tour green job training programs. The administration has put $80 billion into clean energy investments.

Oates talked with students at a solar panel installation program in Richmond. The program has benefited from a $500,000 federal grant. She and Congresswoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, met at Laney College's green jobs training program, which received $3.5 million.

Lee and Oates both said it is a great investment.

"They're going to get a good paying job at the end of the day because they're learning the skills and receiving the education that's required for this new age," said Lee.

However, studies by a growing number of academic and watchdog groups say the promise of good paying and plentiful green jobs is a myth; Oates took objection to that.

"Whether you talk to some of the people in installation in all parts of the country, whether you talk to Texas who are building the wind turbines and making sure those are maintained, I mean the jobs are real. I'm not those up, I haven't been to invisible factories," said Oats.

But it is a question of size. If you take the design and manufacturing of solar panels and wind turbines combined, you're taking 0.6 percent of the U.S. workforce.

Semiconductors and biotech, each make up 0.5 percent of the job market. And it's questionable to say a good paying job will be installing solar panels and weather stripping.

Robert Reich is a former secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton.

"Are there going to be very specific good jobs for people over the next five years coming out of this deep recession? A big question mark," said Reich.

Reich says there will be jobs installing insulation and solar panels and weather stripping, but those won't be high paying and he said trying to define what green jobs will be present in the future is probably the wrong way to look at it.

"You would've seen 15 years ago, a lot of jobs that no longer exist and you would not have seen a lot of jobs that today do exist. There's simply no way of predicting how technology is going to evolve or exactly that those jobs are going to be," said Reich.

Reich said instead of thinking about so-called green jobs, it might be more useful to think of the fundamental skills that people are going to need in an economy that's moving away from carbon based fuels.

And Oates said if the administration has made inaccurate projections of green jobs, it wasn't done intentionally, and it's hard to predict the future.


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