Beyond Green Jobs

A volunteer from Youthbuild/Service Nation at the September 27, 2008, Green Jobs Now National Day of Action, sponsored by Green for All.

Everyone wants to be green. Fossil fuel companies tout their commitments to the environment, with BP sporting its green and yellow flower logo and Chevron scooping up a Green Apple award for promoting public-school energy efficiency [1]. In 2009 Exxon-Mobil got itself named Forbes magazine’s Green Company of the Year for stepping up its natural gas production [2].

Mix “green” with “jobs,” and everyone ought to love you. In fact, a 2010 Harris Interactive survey found that 72 percent of respondents believed that expansion of green jobs would help preserve a higher quality environment, and 61 percent agreed that expansion of green jobs would have a positive outcome for the U.S. economy. [3] As a candidate, Barack Obama promised to create five million green jobs, arguing that “green jobs are the jobs of the future,” and that they would “help reduce our dependence on foreign oil and save this planet for our children.”  As president, Obama has directed $500 million toward green jobs training as part of the federal stimulus funding authorized in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. (ARRA)

But organized opposition to green jobs does exist; in fact it thrives among conservative thought leaders and business groups, who view any push for an environmentally sustainable economy as simply an excuse to further regulate business. The influential Heritage Foundation, for one, claims that a green economy is a contradiction in terms, an approach that will eliminate more jobs than it would create. [4] Heritage also argues that green jobs are anti-free enterprise, propped up by government subsidies. It even pokes fun at green jobs, asking, as Peter Brookes and J. D. Foster do on the Heritage website, “What could be greener than a rickshaw?” [5]

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