House Committee Hears Arguments for Green Collar Jobs


One doesn't have to dig deeply these days to see that green business is hot: from Fortune 500 companies to the smallest of start-ups, the business world increasingly recognizes that the urgent need to tackle climate change and other environmental challenges offers new opportunities for profitability.

On Tuesday, the House of Representative's new select committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming held hearings on employment in the green economy, as businesses ramping up their eco-friendly efforts are discovering that the pool of potential employees with the necessary training and skills is still fairly shallow. Titled "Economic Impacts of Global Warming: Green Collar Jobs," the committee's members heard testimony on efforts to expand the number of workers trained to participate in the greening of the economy, and the importance of ensuring that people on various rungs of the socioeconomic ladder are included in this expansion. Committee chair Edward J. Markey and colleagues invited the following experts to address these issues:

Each participants' testimony is linked above; all noted, however, that a green economy holds great promise not only for entrepreneurs and investors, but also workers with varying levels of skills. Government support of training for these workers could both meet the human resources needs of green businesses, and provide a way our of poverty for the very people most likely to suffer the effects of climate change. According to United Press International,
...$300 billion in federal funds over the next 10 years could create 3 million jobs, estimates the Apollo Alliance, a non-profit organization that pushes clean-energy jobs for low-income workers.

The money would be used for training purposes, as well as "building efficiency, renewable energy investments, smart growth, biofuels development" and other initiatives, said ...Ringo.

"You can level the playing field with respect to job training to help those who have been disproportionately hurt by global warming, which has been the poor," Ringo told lawmakers. "Make it easier for the poor to reap the benefits of the new jobs."

Storms and other weather conditions intensified by climate change harm poor communities more than affluent ones, said Ringo, pointing to the largely low-income victims of Hurricane Katrina.

While not all committee members agreed with these conclusion -- Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis. noted "I think relying on the government to create jobs is a dead end" -- others noted that investment in green collar training would help ramp up American efforts to tackle climate change while also proving a path to economic self-sufficiency for many low-income citizens. Rep. Hilda Solis noted her work on a "green jobs anti-poverty investment act" with other committee members, and claimed "Through this effort we can support both our nation's innovation and technological leadership and drive our nation to lift people out of poverty."

Combined efforts by businesses, colleges and universities, unions and government could create powerful methods of keep the economy humming while lightening our national environmental footprint. We're interested in your thoughts: how do we ensure that a greener economy lifts all ships, and provides opportunity to those most in need of it? ::UPI, House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, and Rep. Hilda L. Solis