Green Jobs are Good Jobs
August 21, 2012 7:43 am
By: Kevin Norton
A question that is being asked by talking heads on the right-wing yak shows lately is, “Where are all the green jobs?” Well, there is a simple answer: Those jobs are here in the Southwest, my little conservative Debbie Downers. All over Southern California, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona you will find massive solar projects with thousands of construction workers getting their first paychecks in months or, in some cases, years. There are so many solar-energy jobs helping us climb out of the absolute depression in the electrical industry that you can’t swing a Birkenstock and not hit one.
That’s right, despite their efforts to kill every single meaningful jobs bill in the House and Senate for the last four years, conservatives have failed to stop the sprouts and shoots of the new green economy.
Why is it happening now? There is a requirement for all of California’s electric utilities to buy 33 percent of our power from renewable energy sources by 2020. This Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) was the result of good policy and hard work. The hard work was keeping all of these jobs in California. There is an absolute green tsunami in Southern California because of the RPS and federal energy credits and loans paid for by the Obama administration’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The green wave has hit even harder than I expected, and I track these jobs for a living. If you live in Los Angeles you are starting to see solar projects on L.A. Unified School District campuses. The L.A. Community College District has been installing solar on all of its nine campuses for several years already. Southern California Edison is going full steam ahead with residential-to-utility grade solar projects in every city it serves. The L.A. Department of Water and Power just finished energy-saving retrofits on 3,400 homes. Private companies like First Solar have projects employing hundreds of electricians in nearly every county in Southern California.
So why does the Right hate green jobs so much? It’s because conservative ideologues have painted themselves into an oily little corner, depending on people like the Koch brothers to fund their think tanks, buy radio and TV ads and fill election coffers to such an extent that they just repeat talking points from climate deniers and paid spokesliars of the energy industry.
Admittedly, many of the jobs created in the heavily subsidized green economy are low-wage jobs. That’s because green jobs are only good jobs if we make them good jobs. The good news is that a lot of these jobs are great union construction jobs, with apprenticeship programs and benefits that are rare in this great recession.
We can’t drill baby, drill our way out of our energy problems. We need to pass smart policies that will move the dial to a clean energy future in a way that won’t bankrupt us. In SoCal we are well on our way to doing that.
Kevin Norton is an electrician and organizer with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 11.