Color me cynical, but for a long time, I assumed that all the political blather about green jobs meant only one thing: They were fake. But according to this infographic by Column Five for solar-power company 1Bog, green jobs are very much real—and in fact might be one of the only places in this awful economy where a person can hope to get a decent manufacturing job.
Granted, we're not experiencing the hockey-stick growth you might expect from such a burgeoning field. As the topmost chart shows, the green economy expanded three times faster than the economy as a whole, in the decade ended in 2007. (Who knows exactly what that ratio looks like now, but we're betting that it's larger.)
If you look at the "Top Jobs in Renewable Energy" pie chart near the top, you get a pretty good indication of how many green jobs rely on proven technologies that can scale — namely, hydroelectric, solar, and wind, trailed quite distantly by geothermal, wave energy, and all the other energy generators that seem to exist only on green-tech blogs.
But perhaps the most surprising part of the chart above is the kind of jobs that the green-tech sector is creating: These aren't positions for PhD eggheads and white-collar middle managers, but rather middle-class workers who just a decade ago might be been classified as blue-collar. Nearly 69% of all green-economy jobs are middle-class, middle-income positions — compared to just 43% of all American jobs. In other words, when politicians say that green jobs are the most promising place to look, as we try to put the hollowed-out middle-class back to work, they might actually be right. After all, what other growing sector of the economy is looking to hire people without a college degree? A whopping 26% of all green jobs are in manufacturing, compared to 9% in the economy at large:
Moreover, as the two maps on the bottom show, the green economy isn't just confined to the major cities: Instead, the largest growth has occurred in places such as Des Moines, Knoxville, and Toledo. To put it simply: Green jobs have been touted as a silver bullet for our economic woes. And it might be true: They employ precisely those people whose skills are otherwise in low demand. And those jobs are emerging in places beyond the coasts, where job creation has been difficult.
So why don't we actually hear more about green jobs? What happened to all that bluster from a year or two ago? Why aren't all the Republican candidates talking about them? And why isn't President Obama touting them, everywhere he goes?
[Top image by Kenny Louie]