The beginning of the conversation
In this regard, we find particularly interesting a recent Brookings Institution study showing that the so-called “clean economy,” defined as sectors that produce goods and services with environmental benefit, now generates more jobs in this nation than fossil fuels. As reported in a news brief last week, it concluded that these clean jobs not only outnumbered those in the fossil-fuel related area, but also included better paying jobs for lower-skilled workers, so called “green collar” jobs.
If we can choose between an industry that is recognized to pollute, to contribute to global warming and to cause infrastructure damage, but creates jobs, and one that is environmentally friendly, creates more jobs—and just incidentally is the wave of the future rather than a 20th century dinosaur like fossil fuels—why on earth would we choose the former?
We can see a little piece of how the clean economy is becoming effective in Sullivan County, where New York State’s Green Jobs – Green New York program is now being promoted (see page 5). In the program, homeowners get a free NYSERDA audit resulting in a list of specific measures that will help them save money on energy. Local contractors are recommended who can do the work, and if the homeowner in fact decides to implement the upgrade, up to $13,000 in low-interest loans is available. Payments on the loans are made in low monthly amounts that, in the program’s experience so far, have been consistently lower than the amount of money saved on purchasing energy.
The people who do the auditing and installation are local. The families that save money are local. The industry is clean and sustainable. This, surely, is smart job creation. It shows us that boosting employment doesn’t always have to be a negative tradeoff in which we have to give away pieces of our environment, our infrastructure, our social fabric, or our future. Next time somebody tells you that we must put up with the degradation of our quality of life for the sake of creating jobs, remember that that does not have to be the end of the conversation.