by Alessia Leibert
What’s the difference between a green job and an energy job?
- Increase the use of renewable energy sources;
- Minimize the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels;
- Reduce the amount of energy that comes from fossil sources (oil or diesel) by implementing energy-saving or energy-efficient solutions. The economic sectors that have the most to gain from adopting energy-efficient processes and technologies are those that consume the most gasoline: transportation, manufacturing, and construction.
The potential for green job creation in energy depends on how energy is produced in a specific region. In parts of the country that are rich in oil or coal, like Texas and West Virginia, energy jobs tend to be concentrated in the petroleum/coal and related industries, since the economic rationale for investing in clean sources is not very strong. These jobs are generally not considered “green,” although some utilities are implementing carbon sequestration techniques to minimize the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels.
Where renewable resources abound, like in California (solar), Minnesota (wind, water, biomass), and Iowa (wind, biomass), the energy sector could “green” quite significantly over the next year as the economy starts to recover. For example, many Minnesota-based utility companies are taking a leadership role in upgrading the national electrical grid to harvest wind resources.
The potential for green job creation in the energy sector is also a function of how labor-intensive an industry is. Since transportation and construction are generally more labor-intensive than manufacturing and energy generation, investments in energy-efficiency in these sectors might have a more decisive impact on employment levels.
But “green” is a broader concept, conveying much more than energy generation and energy efficiency. One possible way to capture the breadth of contexts where green jobs can emerge is to define “green” as synonymous to “sustainable practices.” These include preserving natural resources, making durable (or high-quality) goods, and using them responsibly so that they’ll last. Sustainability has been around forever, in the form of agricultural practices, recycling, and high-quality craftsmanship that uses responsibly harvested materials. It also thrives on the human need for harmony with nature.