October 10, 2008
How many jobs can be created through a clean-energy economy?Somewhere between "millions" (John McCain) and "five million" (Barack Obama)? Cynics have dismissed both as election year hyperbole, suggesting that our fossil-fuel-based economy can't be expected to turn on a dime. And even if it can, new green-collar jobs needed to produce and distribute clean energy -- such as expanding the country's electricity grid -- will never approach multiple millions.
What critics seem to miss is that those millions of jobs would come about not only in the production and distribution of clean energy, but in jobs that are enabled or for which demand was created by renewable energy. Like mine. But far beyond bloggers talking to themselves and front-line energy workers (like the ones who installed my combined heat and power system), the demand for clean energy already is creating new jobs in nonenergy fields, such as in environmental law, medicine -- and computing. Data centers need to be retrofitted, and existing and emerging material-science firms need software-savvy engineers, for example. Will all those nonenergy industry green jobs bring the total of new jobs into the millions? I'm not sure, but let's at least count them.
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