Are Green Jobs Skeptics the New Climate Deniers?

Are Green Jobs Skeptics the New Climate Deniers?

A new report from Missouri Republican Senator Kit Bond wants to put the "Yellow Light" on green jobs -- and it's just the latest in a series of volleys trying to sow doubt about the benefits of moving to a green economy.
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Bond's report, "Yellow Light on Green Jobs" [PDF], Bond, who is also a ranking member of the Senate's Subcommittee on Green Jobs and the New Economy, reviews green job proposals and projects and finds that "many green jobs pay low wages, require expensive taxpayer subsidies, and kill existing jobs to pay for new green jobs."

Bond's concern focuses largely on the fact that green jobs will require "taxpayer subsidies" to create, and that in the process of creating these jobs we'll end up losing untold numbers of existing jobs.

It's the same line we've heard repeatedly in the last few months. Last month, I sat in on a press conference detailing the "myths" about green jobs discovered by researchers from several universities. That report, "Green Jobs Myths," had much the same worries as Bond's reports: we're in the midst of rushing headlong into a project that may end up costing us dearly.

Because the universe of green jobs is enormous and hazily defined, let's focus solely on jobs in renewable energy, which is largely where these concerns have been raised. To be sure, there is at least a grain of truth to this argument: in the process of switching to clean, domestic, renewable energy, we are inevitably going to lose jobs at, say, coal-fired power plants, coal mines, tar sands mining operations and so on.

But I've yet to see any indication that the number of new jobs that will be created to power the country by low-carbon sources is going to be fewer than the number of people currently employed in the fossil fuel business.

On top of that, concerns about the pay for these jobs seems both unfounded and at least a bit misplaced. Even if these jobs do pay less than existing jobs (also not a given), considering that the country is hemorrhaging jobs of all types, is it better to have a job that pays slightly less than no job at all?

And finally, it comes down to the fact that we don't have a choice but to make this switch happen and we will adjust with the consequences. Even if green jobs and the green economy are not a panacea for all our problems, the climate crisis is not going away -- when the economy is back to a healthy state, the environment is still going to be suffering, and the sooner and more boldly we act, the better off we'll all be.

Which brings me to the whole point of this post: are green jobs deniers the newest form of climate deniers? The researchers behind the "green jobs myths" report were paid by the Institute for Energy Research, a think tank with ties to the fossil fuels industry; Kit Bond has multiple donors from the oil, gas and energy industries in his top 100 contributors list. So it seems a valid question: what are these groups and politicians hoping to achieve by stalling the green jobs movement?

I'll close it up with a quote from Phil Angelides, the executive director of the Apollo Alliance, one of the leading groups working on building a green economy. In response to Bond's report, Angelides said, "Rather than take Senator Bond's approach and sit idly by in the hope that the country's energy and economic woes magically sort themselves out, we believe the time is now for aggressive solutions that will put Americans back to work, break our costly addiction to fossil fuels, and lay the foundation of a new, robust economic infrastructure."