'Green' jobs could employ 14 million, report says

More secure, better-paying employment could come for workers as varied as truck drivers and electrical engineers, according to a study.

A 'green' economy could provide new, improved opportunities for 14 million workers, according to a report released Tuesday by progressive environmental and labor groups.

For now, a quick look at any employment ad Web site turns up few opportunities in hands-on, "green" trades, such as installing solar panels. However, the 2007 U.S. Energy Act approved $125 million in funding for workforce training through the Green Jobs Act.

What might the new jobs look like?

Revamped professions, from agricultural inspecting to welding, would cover 9 percent of the U.S. workforce, according to authors Robert Pollin and Jeannette Wicks-Lim, economics professors at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

They determined six major areas of job growth: retrofitting buildings, mass transit, efficient cars, wind power, solar power, and cellulosic biomass fuels.

And a green economy would enlist skills honed by blue-collar professionals. For instance, sheet metal workers could apply their skills to building wind power farms. Factory machine operators could help to build greener cars and blend biofuels. Carpenters and roofers could install solar panels. Rail track layers could build the infrastructure for high-speed trains.

Researchers examined average wages of potentially affected occupations in 12 states, as well as national employment data.

They concluded that demand for sheet metal workers, electrical engineers, and welders to design and install solar and wind systems; as well as for truck drivers to move materials from coast to coast, could lead to higher wages and better job security.

The study reviewed opportunities in Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The report was released in partnership with groups including the Sierra Club, United Steelworkers, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

A March study by the Center on Wisconsin Strategy at the University of Wisconsin at Madison came up with some similar results, as did a 2007 study by McKinsey and Company.

The latest report didn't make projections for job growth in particular areas, or address potentially negative outcomes. A joint study with the Center for American Progress set for this summer will forecast the growth of various green professions.

Environmental activists, labor advocates, clean-tech CEOs, and politicians around the world continue to amplify their call to rescue the suffering blue-collar sector and reduce carbon emissions with hands-on jobs in renewable energy and other growing, green areas.

 

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