July 23rd, 2009 by Zachary Shahan
How long did the idea that green issues and the economy were in competition proliferate the US? For decades. Now, top-of-the-world entrepeneurs, the President of the United States, leading representatives in Congress, and research institutes are saying that green jobs and a green economy are the way to a healthy economy. Recent statements by Barbara Boxer (Senator from California), John Doerr (venture capitalist who helped to launch Google and Amazon.com), Obama, and a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts state that the only way to lead the world in the 21st century is to lead in green energy and green jobs.
In reference to Thomas Friedman’s book, Hot, Flat and Crowded, Boxer said yesterday: “The nation that aggressively addresses the issue of climate change will be the nation that will thrive, the nation that will lead, and the nation that will prosper.”
Doerr, who had the foresight to help launch Google and Amazon, says: “Going green may be the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century. It is the mother of all markets.”
Referencing a recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Senator said: “(M)ore than 10,000 new clean energy businesses were launched in California from 1998 to 2007. During that period, clean energy investments created more than 125,000 jobs and generated them 15 percent faster than the California economy as a whole.” (emphasis mine)
The nationwide report also shows that this is a nationwide trend. “Pew found that jobs in the clean energy economy grew at a national rate of 9.1 percent, while traditional jobs grew by only 3.7 percent between 1998 and 2007.” This is in spite of minimal and interspersed government support.
A surprising finding is how close clean energy is coming to the traditional, established fossil-fuel sector in providing jobs for the population. The Pew Trusts state:
By 2007, more than 68,200 businesses across all 50 states and the District of Columbia accounted for about 770,000 jobs.
By comparison, the well-established fossil-fuel sector—including utilities, coal mining and oil and gas extraction, industries that have received significant government investment—comprised about 1.27 million workers in 2007.
Capitalists often praise US society for encouraging market-based change and innovation. In recent years, this change is surging towards a green economy. The report shows the great private investment is coming earlier than strong governmental action. “Venture capital investment in clean technology crossed the $1 billion threshold in 2005 and continued to grow substantially, reaching a total of about $12.6 billion by the end of 2008. In 2008 alone, investors directed $5.9 billion into American businesses in the clean energy economy, a figure that represents a 48 percent increase over 2007 investment totals and accounts for 15 percent of all global venture capital investments.”
The jobs being created by the new green economy are across the spectrum. “The report finds that the emerging clean energy economy is creating well-paying jobs in every state for people of all skill levels and educational backgrounds.”
As Boxer states, if we are to lead the world, we need to put real effort into creating and supporting this green economy. “Other countries, especially China and Germany, are already building their clean energy industries. We need to lead the new energy economy; we cannot afford to wait.”
Image credit: Marcello Derousseau via flickr under a Creative Commons license
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