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Jobs and the Environment


In the past, we’ve often heard politicians make statements like “we can’t afford to deal with the environment”.  Those kinds of statements resonate with the public for two reasons.  First of all, the average person is more concerned about improving the economy (or simply getting a job) than “taking care of the environment”.  And second, environmental causes such as blocking the Keystone XL pipeline are successfully painted as being “job killers”.

Especially in tough economic times, it is not enough to point out that Keystone XL would have only created about 50 permanent jobs.  Environmental groups and politicians who want to address environmental problems such as climate change need to transform the conversation from “jobs vs. the environment” to “jobs and the environment”.  The same way that TransCanada (the company that wants to build Keystone XL) comes out and says the their pipeline will create X number of jobs and add Y$ to the economy, opponents need to have green job proposals to counter with.

The fact is that investments in wind, solar, mass transit and energy conservation create more jobs per dollar than investments in fossil fuels.  Add to that the cost of externalities associated with fossil fuels, and the argument is even better.  Also, renewables are the future of energy production.  Whether we make the transition to renewables for the right reasons (to stop climate change and reduce environmental pollution) or the wrong reasons (because it is no longer financial viable to dig up and boil two tons of earth to make a barrel of oil or because we are running out of fossil fuels), we will have to make that transition.

And there are a lot of green jobs out there.

Wind turbine repair.  Photo: Think Progress.

Wind turbine repair. Photo: Think Progress.

As of 2010, 1,1 million Europeans worked in the renewable energy sector.  While the global economy was struggling, the number of green jobs in Europe increased by 25% from 2009 to 2010.  (Note: These figure do not include jobs in mass transit, recycling or green building design and construction.  They also don’t include the jobs created during the massive boom in green energy development that happened in 2011.)

Solar panel installation.  Photo: solarpowerbuzzmedia-com.

Solar panel installation. Photo: solarpowerbuzzmedia-com.

Fighting climate change requires the kinds of investments and actions that will create lots and lots of jobs! (Yes.  “lots and lots” is a technical term 🙂 )  We need to make sure that every home in this nation is better insulated (JOBS).  We need to build more efficient homes and offices (JOBS).  We need to build thousands of small wind farms to power our communities (JOBS).  We need to put a solar panel on every roof so that home owners are not only able to produce their own electricity but sell the excess to the power grid (JOBS).  We need to improve our infrastructure in order to create more efficient mass transit in our cities and high speed rail between our cities (lots of JOBS).  Geothermal, charging stations for plug-in vehicles, off shore wind, tidal power, forest conservation, sustainable logging, organic agriculture, bike path construction…

Our economy can’t afford to let these green jobs pass us by.  And neither can our climate.


Sources: Keystone XL opponents need a jobs program, More than 1.1 million People Employed in EU’s Renewable Energy Sector.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 2012/02/23 8:51 am

    Makes me wonder whether Jesus would consider the lily.

    PS typo on ‘[…] TransCanada (the company that wants to build Keystone XL) comes out and says the their pipeline […]’

    • 2012/02/23 10:06 pm

      Maybe he would give away more gourds? I haven’t seen that entire movie… only clips. I need to work on that. We could all use more Monty Python in our lives.

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