Why we need a green jobs program

Jeannette Wicks-Lim and her colleagues at the Political Economy Research Institute at UMass–Amherst think green jobs would be a powerful engine for job growth for all workers. They looked at a clean-energy program that includes making buildings more energy efficient, expanding and improving mass transit, updating the national electric grid, and developing each of three types of renewable energy sources: wind, solar, and biomass fuels. They wondered how green jobs would stack up against fossil fuel related jobs when it comes to getting Americans back to work.

Here’s what they found:

  • First, clean-energy activities produce more jobs, dollar for dollar, than fossil fuel-related activities because they are more labor intensive, spend more dollars on goods and services produced within the United States, and have lower average wages than fossil fuel-related activities. Investment in clean-energy activities would create more than three times the number of jobs that would be created by investing the same amount in fossil fuels.
  • Second, many clean energy sector jobs would be accessible to workers with no college experience. Nearly half of the clean energy jobs could be held by workers with a high school degree, or less. These would be jobs for construction laborers, carpenters, and bus drivers. Less than one-quarter of clean-energy jobs would require a B.A. or more, whereas, fossil fuel sector jobs often require college degrees.

Wicks-Lim hastens to add that green or clean energy investments do not mean lots of low paying jobs. Compared to the fossil fuels sector, the clean energy sector would produce nearly four times the number of jobs that require a high school degree or less, three times the number of jobs that require some college experience, and 2.5 times the number of jobs that require a B.A. or more. Green investments would produce more jobs at all education and wage levels, even while generating proportionately more jobs that are accessible to workers with a high school degree or less.

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