Is Creating Green Jobs a "Sensible Aspiration" for Governments?


Photo via A Green Living

That's the topic of an ongoing online debate over at the Economist.com. In one corner, green jobs advocate Van Jones, who argues that governments should engage in the active practice of creating green jobs, by, for example, incentivizing clean energy projects. In the other, Andrew P. Morriss, a professor of business and law at the University of Illinois, who argues that green job creation should be left to the marketplace. It's a fascinating debate, and one that needs to be had. After all, Spain solar power industry just underwent a painful collapse due to miscalculated subsidies, and policy ideas for green job generation are being considered at this very moment in the US Senate.

Here are the opening statements, from the Economist.

Van Jones: The private sector--not the government--can and must be the main driver in creating green jobs. The scale of the transition to cleaner, lower-carbon energy sources is simply too large for the public sector to tackle alone.

Andrew P. Morriss: Governments should not try to choose technological winners and losers and so they should not promote "green" (or "red" or "purple") jobs. Instead, we should leave that to the marketplace.

I won't endeavor to recreate both arguments in full here, as they are both lengthy and nuanced (well, about the latter you can be the judge after reading Morriss's mind-numbingly run-of-the-mill opening bit on how green jobs are ill-defined. Obvs.).

But before you jump in, take a cue from Climate Progress and note that the meat of the issue is a little misleadingly presented--the argument isn't really about whether a government should set up a green jobs factory that creates only 'green' jobs--which can be more easily refuted--but about establishing the proper conditions for green jobs to flourish. Ie, pricing carbon, subsidizing renewable energy, raising fuel economy standards, etc.

CP says:

The position people like Van Jones (and I) advocate is that government helps create the conditions for the private sector to create green jobs. Indeed, other countries are pushing so much harder to foster green jobs because they know that they represent probably the single biggest source of manufacturing and skilled labor this century -- and that peak oil and the threat posed by unrestricted emissions of greenhouse gases mean that in the future the only jobs left will be green.
Anywho, check out the whole debate at the Economist. Whaddaya think? Should governments be aiming to create specifically green jobs? Is that 'sensible' as the Economist would term it?

More on Green Jobs:
Obama Announces New Tax Credits For Green Jobs
Obama to Spend Billions to Create Green Jobs : How You Can Get Yours

Tags: Barack Obama | Congress | Green Jobs | United States

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