Green Jobs Are NOT A Myth!

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Last week the Washington Post ran an op-ed with the curious headline, “The Green Jobs Myth.”
Oil and coal lobbyists everywhere, well-aware that most people only read headlines and a few paragraphs at most, were giving each other high-fives. You see, a headline like this “propels the propaganda” that anything remotely environmentally-conscious “costs jobs.” And being in the Washington Post, it signals that the “powers-that-be” are officially poo-pooing the concept.
The op-ed begins by setting up a straw man to knock down. It claims that the Obama administration has the “assumption that a “clean-energy” economy will generate enough jobs to mitigate today’s high level of unemployment … and to meet the needs of future generations”, But seriously, has anyone, anywhere, ever said that new green jobs alone will solve the jobs crisis? Just asking.
The basis for the headline’s premise that green jobs are a myth was that installing smart electric meters means there will be fewer meter-readers employed. Well duh! But this op-ed — with its curious headline — uses some curious math to reach its conclusion that automating meters means fewer meter-readers will be employed. It claims that only 400 installation jobs would be created to install 20 million meters, 1600 if the rate of installation is increased. Huh? Then it gets better. To calculate how many meter-reader jobs will be lost it claims that meter-readers only read 30 meters an hour, causing 28,000 meter-reading jobs to be lost.
Now, I was already sold on the idea that automating meters means fewer meter-readers would be employed, but come on! Clearly the Post is betting that most people don’t read past the first few paragraphs if they’re thinking this kind of “let’s play tricks with math” will just slip by.
Curiously, the op-ed doesn’t mention that people will be employed to manufacture these 20 million smart-meters! How many jobs will be created to manufacture 20 million smart meters? The op-ed doesn’t say. perhaps saying how many would negate the curious title.
How Many Green Jobs Are There?
But never mind smart meters. If we’re going to talk about green jobs we need to talk about the jobs that would be created by:

  • retrofitting every building and home in America to be energy efficient, and the management, supply chain, transportation, tools, etc.
  • manufacturing, installing and maintaining wind turbines
  • manufacturing, installing and maintaining rooftop solar installations
  • manufacturing, installing and maintaining solar power generation facilities
  • everything associated with biofuels, geothermal power generation, nuclear power, advanced batteries, hydro power, carbon sequestration, carbon credit trading and transportation alternatives including building an advanced high-speed rail system connecting every major city in the country.

Think about the huge number of jobs all of this involves – and the huge payoff to our economy. And remember, these will all be in addition to the existing energy infrastructure, for now.
I suspect that the reason we see curiously misleading op-eds like this one in outlets like the Washington Post is that all of these coming technologies mean lower profits for the big, monopolistic oil and coal giants.
They can try to stop the green manufacturing revolution but it is coming. The question is, do we let op-eds like this one stop it from being Made in America?

Fixing Jobs: Normal Isn’t An Option

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
The “Jobs Summit” is Thursday. Are they going to try to get things back to normal? I hope not!
“Normal” isn’t an option anymore, because it is what led to where we are.
The financial sector bailout is based on the idea that things will get back to “normal” if the credit machine is restarted and consumers and businesses are able to borrow more. The stimulus is based on the idea that the economy is an engine that runs smoothly and just needs to be restarted and things will get back to “normal.” While we wait for “normal” to return the government is stepping in to make up the slack in demand, and to help those hit hardest by the downturn. (Never mind that COBRA subsidies start expiring as you read this and unemployment has been extended and extended.)
The idea that you can get the financial sector and the economy back to “normal” desperately assumes that a sustainable “normal” existed in the structure of the 20th-century western economy. It assumes that there really is an “invisible hand” that takes care of things without human intervention. It assumes that perpetual growth of consumers and their incomes and of consumables could just go on and on.
This all assumes that “normal” was OK. This is such a nice, comforting idea. It is wrong.
What if that “normal” system really was unsustainable and that is what led to its collapse? What if there was a limit to how many jobs can be outsourced, wages cut, factories closed, people born, trees cut down, fish taken from the sea, nutrients taken from the soil, water taken from the aquifers? And, of course, the big one: what if there is a limit to how much carbon can be put into the atmosphere?
If people and nature and markets finally reached a limit, and things broke down — what then? What then is we need to give up on returning to that “comfortable” dream and get to work designing a sustainable system that benefits and respects all of us and the planet we rode in on.
We need a restructuring, a redesign, a new direction. Our “normal” system has turned into a low-wage, everything-to-the-top economy and this must be restructured.
The Restructuring
The core of what needs to be restructured is that we have a system where people with power and wealth benefit when they figure out how to cause other people to receive lower pay and benefits — or just lose their jobs. The incentives come down to this: if someone can figure out how to cut your pay and benefits or just get rid of you (“eliminate your position”) they get to pocket what you were making, and you get nothing. If you don’t own the company you’re out of luck.
Now that is a perverse incentive if there ever was one. (Another perverse incentive: People with power and wealth benefit when they “externalize” costs like environmental or health damages. If they figure out how to hurt you or the planet without having to pay the costs of healing those harms, they get to pocket the savings.)
In the past this perverse incentive was mitigated by people banding together in governments and/or unions and forcing the wealthy and powerful to share. But modern marketing science has been successful at making people believe that government and unions are bad for them.
This was also mitigated by the ongoing need to find people to do the jobs that needed to get done. But with continual improvements in technology this need is reduced. For example, here is a story about a factory that builds large-screen TVs without any employees.
Also, this perverse incentive assumes an infinite pool of customers to sell to, ignoring that the transaction of benefiting from eliminating a job also eliminates a customer. But modern business has become so efficient at job elimination that this comes into play. Who will be able to buy theTVs that the employee-eliminating factory makes, if all the employees are eliminated and have no income?
Three decades ago productivity and wages decoupled. Where wages used to always increase along with productivity Reagan initiated an era where that increase was no longer shared, and the benefits of our economy now increasingly flow to the few at the top. Now they have all the money, and everyone else is loaded with debt from just trying to keep things “normal.”
You might be lucky enough to still have a job today but you probably haven’t had a raise for a long time. And if you did rising costs of health care, etc. took it back. But even if you are ahead, what about tomorrow? Do you have a job that absolutely can’t be outsourced or replaced by technology? If you think so I have news for you, millions of newly-unemployed can see that you have a rare necessary job, and they’re all going to try to get it from you.
So good luck with the Jobs Summit. But if we don’t hear about a fundamental restructuring that involves changing basic ideas of what work means and who “owns” the companies and shares the wealth in a technologically advanced, overpopulated and overproducing world, well, I won’t think we’re hearing the answers we need to hear. Put more simply, my example of the employee-eliminating TV factory is becoming more and more real. But certainly something can be done with a situation where there are plenty of TVs being made, and everyone has a lot of free time because there aren’t enough jobs. How obvious is the answer to that?
Yes, I’ll be posting ideas so check back for future posts on this. In the meantime please leave a comment with your ideas.

California Leading On Environment … Most Of Us Anyway

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
Take a look at the California Climate Change Portal.

This website contains information on the impacts of climate change on California and the state’s policies relating to global warming. It is also the home for the the California Climate Change Center, a “virtual” research and information website operated by the California Energy Commission through its Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Program.

California Attorney General Brown recently announced the state will sue to block a huge Nestle bottled-water plant unless its effects on global warming are evaluated. Why bottled water? A recent Huffington Post piece by Diane Frances, Bottled Water: The Height of Stupidity talks about the bottled-water scam,

Bottled water is a joke, one of the biggest consumer and taxpayer ripoffs ever. I applaud California’s Attorney General Jerry Brown who said recently that he will sue to block a proposed water-bottling operation in Northern California by Nestle.
. . . Not only do society and the environment pay an unfair price for this consumer hoax, but consumers are being hoodwinked. They are paying from 300 to 3,000 times more than the cost of tap water without any benefit.
. . . The water is usually not superior to “city” water or tap water, and is merely a big branding hoax by soda makers. In some cases, this “designer” water is drawn from tap water and labeled for suckers to buy as though it is a superior product.
. . . One expert estimated that the amount of petroleum — used to make the bottles, transport, refrigerate, collect and bury them — would fill one-third of each bottle.
These plastic bottles are creating landfill problems worldwide, and are washing up on beautiful beaches around the planet.

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Private Greed vs. Public Good

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
As I wrote the other day, the California Chamber of Commerce has come out with their annual list of “job-killer” bills. The list only targets bills by Democrats, and the bills are all acts that would help the people of California by improving the environment, worker wage and safety, public health, etc.
The California Chamber of commerce is a lobbying association. They represent their members: businesses, many of which are large corporations. This is about private greed vs. the public good. The Chamber’s job is to convince the legislature to pass laws that enrich the owners of the corporations that fund them. Nothing more, nothing less.
If that involves convincing the public of something, then they do that. Hence the label “job killer.”
But the companies represented by the Chamber are the real job killers. They outsource jobs to other countries. They lay people off when they calculate it will maximize their profits. They employ as many people as needed to maximize the income to and wealth of their owners. Nothing more, nothing less.
The very idea that the Chamber of Commerce would care if something is a “job killer” is ludicrous when you understand their function. They are a lobbying association that represents the interests of companies that eliminate as many jobs as they want to, at their discretion, and then use some of the money that would have been paid in salaries to pay the Chamber to convince us to support their interests — and the rest of it to enrich themselves, which is their primary interest.
That is how corporations work in the modern, “free-market” world that we find ourselves in since the Reagan era. Not for the public benefit, not necessarily even for the company’s benefit, but for the financial benefit of the executives and (some of) the owners of the company.
Private greed vs. public good. Nothing more, nothing less.
So there isn’t really an argument about whether the “job-killer” bills on this year’s list really do or do not “kill jobs.” That is not the point of the label. Instead it is up to us to understand who we are hearing from. If we get caught up in arguing about whether these bills create more jobs than they might cost, we’re missing the point. Their arguments are propaganda with no basis in reality, designed to do nothing more than sway opinion. The point of the “job-killer” label is to make people afraid for their jobs, not to actually argue that these bills will or will not actually “kill” any jobs.
For example, a bill to require energy efficiency in new housing construction obviously creates many new jobs in the new, innovative “green” industries. But such a bill might lower the profits that go into the pockets of the executives and owners of some of the companies that the California Chamber of Commerce represents. (The LA Times on Wednesday said the Chamber’s agenda “seems dominated by development and energy interests”.) And, again, it is irrelevant whether the bill might or might not really cost jobs in some of those companies. The Chamber doesn’t care. That is not their function.
The use of the label “job killers” is about scaring the public. Nothing more, nothing less. It is about fear. It is about creating a climate in which people who are afraid for their jobs will go along with measures designed to enrich the owners of the companies that the Chamber — a lobbying association — represents.
So please don’t be fooled. Don’t be swayed by propaganda designed to make you afraid. As I wrote above, it is up to us to understand who we are hearing from.
Click through to Speak Out California

Today’s Housing Bubble Post – Big Houses Cost More To Heat And Cool, Bad For Environment

Here is one more problem from the housing bubble – all those big houses they built cost much more to heat and cool than regular houses. As utility costs rise this will compound the monthly-payment problem. Then, on top of that there’s the maintenance costs like eventually re-roofing them, watering the lawns, etc.
And then there is the terrible environmental impact. Very few were built withing walking distance of stores and public transportation so cars are required. How many of the world’s trees were cut down to build them?
And, if the public somehow manages to regain their senses, these house monstrosities – like the huge, pre-oil-embargo land-barge cars of the 1970s – will become even harder to sell.
AlterNet: Environment: Big Houses Are Not Green: America’s McMansion Problem,

The just-popped housing bubble has left behind a couple of million families in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. It has also spawned a new generation of big, deluxe, under-occupied houses bulked up on low-interest steroids.
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) estimates that 42 percent of newly built houses now have more than 2,400 square feet of floorspace, compared with only 10 percent in 1970. In 1970 there were so few three-bathroom houses that they didn’t even to show up in NAHB statistics. By 2005, one out of every four new houses had at least three bathrooms.
…the manufacture and transportation of concrete to build a typical 2,500-square-foot house generates the equivalent of 36 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

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Edwards Campaign Announces Will be Carbon Neutral

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Edwards again doing the right thing: John Edwards for President-Edwards Increases Efforts To Fight Global Warming; Announces Campaign Will Be Carbon Neutral,

As part of his efforts to combat global warming, Senator John Edwards announced today that he will make his campaign “carbon neutral.” Edwards believes global warming is one of the great challenges facing America and the world and that we can all take immediate action to decrease the amount of carbon we produce. By conserving energy and purchasing carbon offsets, the Edwards campaign will offset the carbon emitted by Edwards and his staff’s campaign travel, and the energy used in his campaign headquarters and field offices.
“Global warming is an emergency and we can’t wait until the next president is elected to take action,” said Edwards. “Each of us can take responsibility in small ways to make a big difference. I encourage all Americans to conserve energy in their own homes and workplaces and help fight global warming.”

Buy Nothing Day

It is Buy Nothing Day. Switch off from shopping for a day or two. Stop and think about all the ways your own lifestyle are harmful. hink about all the ways you use energy. Think about all the things you throw away, including plastic and paper wrappers.
This is not just silly stuff, it is important. It is time to realize the part we all play in this out-of-control economic system that is literally consuming the planet out from under us. Global warming is real. Deforestation is real. Depletion of the seas is real. There’s an old saying, “If something is unsustainable, it can’t be sustained.”
From the Buy Nothing Day press release,

Some see it as an escape from the marketing mind games and frantic consumer binge that has come to characterize the holiday season, and our culture in general. Others use it to expose the environmental and ethical consequences of overconsumption.
Two recent, high-profile disaster warnings outline the sudden urgency of our dilemma. First, in October, a global warming report by economist Sir Nicholas Stern predicted that climate change will lead to the most massive and widest-ranging market failure the world has ever seen. Soon after, a major study published in the journal Science forecast the near-total collapse of global fisheries within 40 years.

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Global Warming

Last night I attended a 90-minute presentation by Al Gore on the subject of global warming. I don’t have time to write about it this morning (pesky day job) but the article linked here covers it pretty well. It was an extraordinary event, attended by many of Silicon Valley’s business leaders, like Steve Jobs, the Google guys. It was a terrific presentation but terrifying. It is truly the most important issue facing us. For example, the glaciers are melting, and the Himalayan glaciers provide water to 40% of the Asian population.
After seeing Gore’s presentation I worry that we just might be entering a “runaway” scenario, where the melting of the tundra in Siberia is releasing so much CO2 that we won’t be able to stop this. But we should be trying. Instead our government is making it worse, and laughing about it.
One of the most import points Gore made was that there is not a single scientist or study that disputes that human activity is dramatically increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and that this creates a greenhouse effect that warms the planet. BUT 53% of all newspaper stories surveys said there is dispute or controversy. This shows the power of the Right’s machine to influence the information that people receive. And an informed public is the necessary foundation for a functioning democracy.