NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Green Jobs Haven't Lived up to Obama's Promise

March 26, 2013

America can boast only 500 green jobs in solar electric power generation, but 886,000 green jobs in government -- many for passage of environmental laws, enforcement of environmental regulations, and administration of environmental programs, according to the new count of green jobs for 2011 released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) last week, says Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a former chief economist of the U.S. Department of Labor and a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute.

  • The new report shows that the number of green jobs in the economy grew from 3.2 million in 2010, the first year of data collected, to 3.4 million in 2011.
  • That's an increase of one-tenth of a percent of the nation's jobs, from 2.5 percent to 2.6 percent.

When people hear of green jobs, they think workers are making wind and solar power, and electric cars and batteries. But few Americans are employed in these sectors.

  • In addition to the 500 jobs in solar electric power generation, biomass and geothermal electric generation each accounted for 1,000 jobs, and wind electric power generation employed 3,000 Americans.
  • These are all dwarfed by nuclear power, at 44,000, even though nuclear power is no favorite of environmentalists.
  • In contrast, the number of jobs in oil and gas extraction increased from 159,000 in 2010 to 172,000 in 2011.
  • The largest increase in green jobs came from the construction industry, which added 102,000 jobs, mostly through relabeling.
  • As more construction materials are categorized as energy efficient, the jobs of those who install them turn green.

For instance, BLS counts construction workers who install energy efficient windows as having green jobs, but not those who put in regular windows. Plumbers who install "Lo-Flo" toilets have green jobs, but not plumbers who put in regular fixtures.

  • The largest number of green jobs, 886,000, or 26 percent of total, are in the federal, state, and local governments.
  • This is a decline of 15,000 from 2010, when government was responsible for 28 percent of green jobs.
  • It takes a quarter of the green jobs work force to pass green jobs laws, write the regulations, and enforce them.

Sources: Diana Furchtgott-Roth, "Green Jobs Haven't Lived up to Obama's Promise," MarketWatch, March 22, 2013. "Green Goods and Services Summary," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 19, 2013.


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