Green Jobs for America: Millions of U.S. Workers Stand to Gain from Green Industries

Workers at every skill level will be in high demand and enjoy greater job security in key industries essential to building a clean energy economy, according to a report from a coalition of conservation and labor groups.

June 3, 2008

Today’s job skills will be essential in tomorrow’s clean-energy economy; fight global warming

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WASHINGTON (June 3, 2008) – Workers at every skill level will be in high demand and enjoy greater job security in key industries essential to building a clean-energy economy in America and fighting global warming, according to a new report released today by a coalition of conservation and labor groups.

“Achieving a clean energy economy through green industries like wind and solar are just part of the story. This report is also about job security. Making homes and offices more energy efficient not only saves money and energy, but also represents growth opportunities for workers who build our communities and keep them running,” said Dan Lashof, director of NRDC’s Climate Center. “We’re talking about jobs at every skill level from construction to research, already available here at home.”

This groundbreaking report, Job Opportunities for the Green Economy, takes a state-by-state look at existing jobs skills across a wide range of occupations and income levels that would benefit from America’s transition towards a clean energy economy. The report quantifies the number of workers who can apply their skills to six categories of green industries – building retrofitting, mass transit, fuel efficient automobiles, wind power, solar power, and cellulosic biomass fuels.

“The commitment to a clean energy economy will not only lead to quality jobs in manufacturing unions and the building trades,” says Leo W. Gerard, international president of the United Steelworkers. “It will help stop good-paying jobs from continuing to be exported.”

Hundreds of thousands of workers in the U.S. already possess the vast majority of skills and occupations necessary to reduce global warming and make the shift to a clean energy economy.

For instance, constructing wind farms creates jobs for sheet metal workers, machinists and truck drivers, among many others. Increasing the energy efficiency of buildings through retrofitting relies on roofers, insulators and electricians, to name a few.

“Everyone is talking about how the transition to a clean energy future will create millions of new ‘green-collar’ jobs,” said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. “This report shows that millions of Americans are already working in exactly the kinds of jobs we’ll need to build that clean energy future. Those millions and millions more-from steelworkers to software engineers-stand to benefit from implementing the clean energy solutions we need to fight global warming.”

Job Opportunities for the Green Economy studies employment conditions in 12 states – Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin. While the report focuses on specific states, it shows that the vast majority of green jobs are in the same areas of employment that people already work in today, in every region and state of the country.

“This report demonstrates that the quickest way to put Americans back to work is through investments in solving global warming, said Dave Foster, executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance. “The jobs we’ll create are the very jobs our country is losing in the current recession.”

“Green jobs” are defined in the report as occupations that contribute toward building or producing goods to achieve a ‘green’ marketplace. At the same time, it links the idea that green jobs should be sustainable employment opportunities-that is, jobs that pay at least a living wage, offer training and promotional opportunities and some measure of security.

“This report shows that solving global warming means new investments in jobs and infrastructure, and the reconstruction of our economy,” said Bracken Hendricks, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “As Congress debates climate legislation it should keep in mind that investing in energy efficiency and alternative energy means more opportunity for today’s job market including welders and machinists, carpenters, insulators and electrical engineers. In a very real sense, green jobs are America’s jobs. We can strengthen career ladders and restore America’s middle class by rebuilding our economy to solve global warming.”

“This report demonstrates that given the right strategies, green jobs can be the engine that allows us to build an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift a lot of people out of poverty” said Van Jones, founder and president of Green For All. “With good policies and strong investments that prepare people who most need work for the work that most needs to be done, green jobs can fight poverty and global warming pollution at the same time.”

The report was authored by Robert Pollin and Jeanette Wicks-Lim of the Department of Economics and Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and commissioned by Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). It is being released in cooperation with the Green Jobs for America Campaign, a partnership of the Sierra Club, BlueGreen Alliance, United Steelworkers, NRDC and with the Center for American Progress and Green for All

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The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

The United Steelworkers union represents 1.2 million active and retired workers in the U.S. and Canada, and has long advocated for job growth through clean energy development. In 2004, it became a founder partner, along with the Sierra Club in the BlueGreen Alliance. The USW is also a charter member of the Apollo Alliance, a non-profit group advocating investments in good-paying jobs in pursuit of energy independence.

The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.