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Commentary: Make every job a green job

"Commentary: Make every job a green jobBy Andrew L. ShapiroAndrew L. Shapiro is founder and president of GreenOrder, a strategy and
management consulting firm that specializes in energy and the environment
and is a subsidiary of LRN. Brad Bate and Ted Grozier, consultants at
GreenOrder, also contributed to this article.Andrew Shapiro says society should aim to transform all jobs into ""green
jobs.""In a recent CNN commentary entitled ""Green jobs: hope or hype?"" Samuel
Sherraden argues that green job creation will be insufficient to bring
America out of recession. But Sherraden narrowly defines green as a
""sector,"" and fails to see its potential as a strategy for the
revitalization of the entire economy.When the public debate is focused around the precise number of green jobs
created in, say, a solar panel factory, we miss the opportunity as a
country to think more broadly about greening the economy -- and building a
foundation for real growth and competitiveness.The aspiration to create ""green jobs"" should really be seen as shorthand
for two public priorities -- immediate job creation and long-term
transformation of the economy for sustainability and prosperity -- and both
goals can be addressed simultaneously. However, in judging our progress, a
simple tally of jobs in ""green sectors"" is only a partial indicator of the
impact and thus can be misleading.A lot depends here on definitions. For example, Sherraden cites a 2008
report produced by Global Insight on behalf of the U.S. Conference of
Mayors, which identifies a little more than 750,000 green jobs in the
United States today.A report in the same year, from the American Solar Energy Society, counts
more than 9 million green jobs in the United States. This is not to say
that one report is better than the other, but to point out that much
difference -- in this case, more than 8 million jobs -- depends on how you
count.The critical point Sherraden misses is that it's not just job creation in
new green industries that matter, but also new jobs in traditional
industries -- or the retooling of old jobs -- to make those industries
greener.A great example is the real estate industry. Energy efficiency retrofits of
buildings and homes have the potential to yield significant savings in
energy costs while creating work for building engineers, electricians,
contractors, manufacturers and people in a whole host of other industries
that would not typically be considered ""green.""By comparison, 10 or 15 years ago anyone who used a computer was considered
to have a ""tech job,"" but now nearly everyone uses a computer (and a cell
phone and a PDA) and yet we don't call all jobs ""tech jobs."" We talk about
how technology has changed every industry and profession.Moreover, even investments in sectors we recognize as green can have other
positive economic impacts. Investing in wind power, for example, creates
jobs in wind turbine manufacturing plants as well as jobs in the industries
that supply the plant with parts, jobs producing the materials that make up
these parts, jobs producing the electricity used in the plant, and so on.There is solid evidence that investment in green economic activity will
result in more jobs than many other comparable investments because a
greater proportion of funds would go toward labor and would remain in the
United States.The Center for American Progress and the Political Economy Research
Institute examined the impact of comparable investments in the oil and gas
industry, tax refunds to stimulate household spending, and six specific
energy efficiency and renewable energy strategies.They concluded that $100 billion of investment in renewable energy and
energy efficiency would create approximately 2 million jobs, compared to
1.7 million jobs from stimulating household spending and about half a
million jobs from investment in oil and gas.By investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency as strategies for
our economy, w"