Monday, February 16, 2009

The Green Job Market

Green jobs represent a shining ray of hope in an otherwise distressing global employment picture. From America to the land down under, job losses are large and widespread across many industry sectors. The US Department of Labor's February Employment Situation Summary report indicated that payroll employment has declined by 3.6 million since the start of the recession in December 2007 and about one-half of this decline occurred in the past 3 months.

According to a CNN article, news in the rest or the world is no better. In Britain unemployment is at the highest level in a decade and approaching 2 million, in France unemployment is more than 2 million, about 1.7 million Italians are unemployed and in Germany unemployment is more than 3 million. Millions of Asian workers are also losing their jobs because of the global economic downturn. Some official figures are saying in China around 8 million lost their jobs.

"It's time to bail out the people and the planet," says Van Jones, author of The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems. The Obama administration's commitment to energy efficiency and renewables is helping to drive the boom in Green jobs. A report commissioned by Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) indicates that Green jobs can put America back to work. The report was conducted by the Political Economy Research Institute and reviewed a list of occupations that gain from Green investments, they include "building retrofitting, mass transit, fuel-efficient automobiles, wind power, solar power, and cellulosic biomass fuels."

The report defines Green jobs,"as occupations that contribute toward building or producing goods to achieve a ‘green’ marketplace. At the same time, it links the idea that green jobs should be sustainable employment opportunities—that is, jobs that pay at least a living wage, offer training and promotional opportunities and some measure of security."

The NRDC report "demonstrates that the quickest way to put Americans back to work is through investments in solving global warming, said Dave Foster, executive director of the Blue Green Alliance. “The jobs we’ll create are the very jobs our country is losing in the current recession.”

“The commitment to a clean energy economy will not only lead to quality jobs in manufacturing unions and the building trades,” says Leo W. Gerard, international president of the United Steelworkers. “It will help stop good-paying jobs from continuing to be exported. [S]olving global warming means new investments in jobs and infrastructure, and the reconstruction of our economy,” said Bracken Hendricks, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

The American Solar Energy Society and Management Information Services Inc. together released the report, Defining, Estimating and Forecasting the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Industries in the U.S. and in Colorado. It indicates that Green collar jobs in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors employed more than 9 million Americans in 2007, and produced more than $1 trillion in sales, it estimates that these two sectors could generate 37 million jobs by 2030. However the report makes it clear that this "will be more difficult to achieve without the proper policies in place at the federal and state levels."

"If nothing is done and we proceed in the business-as-usual fashion, the two industries may generate an additional 16.3 million jobs by 2030, compared to 19.5 million in the moderate scenario. Hot sectors with the highest revenue growth included solar thermal and photovoltaics, biofuels and fuel cells. The jobs most in demand will include electricians, mechanical engineers, welders, metal workers, accountants, analysts, environmental scientists and chemists -- the vast majority of which are existing jobs that will take on environmental dimension."

A Fast Company article reviews the Green job market in America and foresees opportunities due to massive investments in clean energy. The article indicates that farmers, urban planners, and green-tech entrepreneurs are amongst the top Green jobs for the next decade.

America has only two million farmers, most of which are older, "sustainable agriculture requires small-scale, local, organic methods rather than petroleum-based machines and fertilizers, there is a huge need for more farmers." According to food guru Michael Pollan we need tens of millions of modern businesspeople-farmers skilled in heirloom genetics as marketing.

Foresters will be in demand as they help "local people transition from slash-and-burn to silviculture--teaching cultivation of higher-value, faster-growing species for fruit, medicine or timber, for example while carefully documenting the impact on the environment." Deforestation causes approximately one quarter of all global warming and many anticipate that it will be a leading source of carbon credits worth tens of billions of dollars.

"Buildings account for up to 48 percent of US energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. LEED, the major green building certification, has over 43,000 accredited professionals. But [as we see in Europe] the cutting edge in efficient buildings goes far beyond LEED. Greening the US building stock will take not only skilled architects and engineers, but a workforce of retrofitters who can use spray foam insulation and storm windows to massively improve the R-value (thermal resistance) of the draftiest old houses. A study by the Apollo Alliance recommended an $89.9 billion investment in financing to create 827,260 jobs in green buildings."

Renewables like solar and wind should see significant growth in job opportunities. The Solar Energy Industries Association predicts an increase to over 110,000 jobs in the fabrication and installing of solar power systems (installing solar-thermal water heaters and rooftop photovoltaic cells) by 2016. "Wind is the leading and fastest-growing source of alternative energy with over 300,000 jobs worldwide. Turbines are 90% metal by weight, creating an opportunity for autoworkers and other manufacturers to repurpose their skills. According to the American Wind Energy Association, the industry currently employs some 50,000 Americans and added 10,000 new jobs in 2007. Their job board is an excellent place to start looking for opportunities."

Conservation biologists will be much in demand as the urgent quest to preserve the integrity of ecosystems around the world -- and to quantify the value of -- ecosystems services -- leads to opportunities in teaching, research and fieldwork for government, nonprofits, and private companies.

"Although the market for paper and plastic has slowed down recently due to the economic downturn, demand for steel is still strong -- 42 percent of output came from scrap in 2006 -- and recycling remains the economical alternative to high disposal fees. Worldwide more than 200,000 people work in secondary steel production, and the US is a major center of production. New laws and regulations are also creating a need for specialized companies that can close the loop by recycling and repurposing e-waste, clothing, plastic bags, construction waste, and other materials."

Sustainability systems developers are required to provide the software and engineering expertise to "design, build, and maintain the networks of sensors and stochastic modeling that underpin wind farms, smart energy grids, congestion pricing and other systems substituting intelligence for natural resources. Coders with experience using large scale enterprise resource planning have an edge here, as well as developers familiar with open source and web 2.0 applications."

Urban and regional planning are crucial to lowering our carbon footprint. "Strengthening mass transit systems, limiting sprawl, encouraging use of bicycles and de-emphasizing cars is only part of the job. Equally important is contingency planning, as floods, heat waves and garbage creep become increasingly common problems for metropolises. Employment in this sector is projected to grow 15 percent by 2016, and the jobs are mainly in local governments, which make them a slightly safer bet for the downturn."

"The concept of the triple bottom line has migrated from the margins to the mainstream of the business world. A recent report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Mayors Climate Protection Center found that business services like legal, research and consulting account for the majority of all green jobs -- over 400,000. This includes everything from marketing to the LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) segment, to serving as a VP of sustainability within a large company, to piloting a green startup like Method or Recyclebank."

Another Fast Company article last month reviewed innovative companies around the globe that are hiring here are some of the more enviro-friendly offerings. BMW based in Munich, Germany are looking for engineers in electricity and electronics, information scientists and mechanical engineers who already have experience in motors, chassis and auto bodies. The intersection of automotive engineering, information technology, and sustainability is where BMW expects to see the most growth.

Samsung Electronics in Seoul, South Korea are actively recruiting engineers with electronic, electrical, computer science, mechanical, physics, and material engineering majors and MBA graduates to work in the Digital Media, Telecommunication Network, Semiconductor, and LCD divisions. Available positions primarily fall within the areas of research and development, marketing and sales, and administrative staffing. The company plans to expand into a variety fields, including solar battery and fuel cell.

As illustrated by the NRDC report "given the right strategies, green jobs can be the engine that allows us to build an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift a lot of people out of poverty" said Van Jones, founder and president of Green For All. "With good policies and strong investments that prepare people who most need work for the work that most needs to be done, green jobs can fight poverty and global warming pollution at the same time."

As employment that helps the environment, sustainability focused career paths leverage the power of free markets and the kind of social responsibility that will auger a better future.


BeyondGreen said...

There could be no better investment in America than to invest in America becoming energy independent! We need to utilize everything in out power to reduce our dependence on foreign oil including using our own natural resources. Create cheap clean energy, new badly needed green jobs, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. The high cost of fuel this past year seriously damaged our economy and society. The cost of fuel effects every facet of consumer goods from production to shipping costs. After a brief reprieve gas is inching back up. OPEC will continue to cut production until they achieve their desired 80-100. per barrel. If all gasoline cars, trucks, and SUV's instead had plug-in electric drive trains, the amount of electricity needed to replace gasoline is about equal to the estimated wind energy potential of the state of North Dakota. There is a really good new book out by Jeff Wilson called The Manhattan Project of 2009 Energy Independence Now.

Actve said...

Suggest you to provide link to

and encourage your readers to use the Energy Environment Forum and get a link back !
energyenvironmentforum at gmail dot com

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