Green jobs and new environmentally friendly careers are getting more awareness, partly because of that American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—a $787 billion stimulus plan for developing alternative fuel sources and other eco-conscious initiatives. Many opinion makers and business leaders view the expansion of the green industry as one solution out of the recession. President Obama made a clean energy pledge to create 5 million jobs over the next decade and reduce US oil dependence. It might seem that no one wants to be left out, but the opinions are oppositional among the governor candidates.
San Diego is one of the nation’s 10 largest centers of green jobs with about 12,000 positions in the metropolitan area according to an October study by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. In San Diego County, green industries include many sectors from construction workers and electricians to scientists working on alternative fuels. Green companies are among the few that have seen substantial job growth over the past few years despite the recession. However, skeptics still question how many jobs are actually being created or if all the talk of a Green Economy is just hype. Critics complain that California’s environmental laws have cost more jobs than they’ve created. Some Texas oil companies are supporting Prop23 to indefinitely postpone AB32 which sets deadlines for moving toward sustainable energy.
Although according to the California Employment Development Department (EDD) survey which is based on 15,500 companies, the green revolution is already an essential part of the state’s economy, creating jobs even during the recession. According to the report, nearly half a million workers throughout the state are involved in producing green products or providing green services, led by 93,000 in manufacturing; 68,000 in construction; 42,000 in professional, scientific and technical services; and 38,000 in recycling and other waste management activities. After including smaller industries, the total represents nearly 4 percent of the state’s work force. In the San Diego and Imperial counties, 40,600 workers are involved in environmental work with construction as the dominant employer. According to the report, roughly 8,300 green jobs in the region involve construction, ranging from retrofitting homes to make them more energy-efficient, redoing plumbing systems to use less water, installing solar panels on rooftops and doing heavy-duty work at power-generation sites.
Construction in the green sector is likely to keep growing as government agencies and private businesses push for more energy-efficient and water-saving buildings which will save money in the long run. The Associated General Contractors of America, a construction industry association, released a report last week estimating that by 2015 there will be as many as 15 million nonresidential green construction projects nationwide, breathing life into an industry hard hit by the recession.
The Civic Centre Green, that was launched on Earth Day, presents a program that will offer incentives for downtown buildings to incorporate more green features, such as rooftop gardens that provide insulation as well as generate oxygen and absorb toxins from the air. Beyond construction, San Diego County is also generating green jobs by developing new technologies to clean the environment. According to Cleantech San Diego, around 700 clean-technology companies are hiring these days.
But the future of green jobs and funding is now in doubt because Texas oil giant Valero Energy is pushing to overturn AB 32 with Prop 23 on the November ballot. In a fact sheet on its website, Prop 23 supporters claim AB 32 will cost the state up to 1.1 million jobs because of added costs to employers and force Californians out of their “trucks, minivans, SUVs, muscle cars and classic cars in favor of vehicles that are smaller, more expensive to purchase and less safe.” On Earth Day, Schwarzenegger railed against the “greedy Texas oil companies that want to come in here and spend millions of dollars to roll back AB 32 and take out all our environmental laws, because they don’t like that there is alternative energy being created. … They want to go and verschmutzt the world.”Schwarzenegger got a laugh from using the German word “verschmutzt,” which means “mess up” or “pollute.”
But San Diego environmental attorney Cory Briggs presented a more compelling argument on how many jobs AB 32 and other environmental laws are generating throughout the state.
“A lot of critics often portray a false choice between creating jobs or cleaning the environment,” Briggs said. “But that’s just not true. If you try to build things with an environmental perspective, it might be a little more complicated than it would otherwise, but there are also more job opportunities for the construction workers as well as for technical folks on the design, construction and operations side. And even if that increases the cost of construction, it pencils out over the long run because of the improvements you’ve made to your energy efficiency. From an economic standpoint, I think one’s clearly better than the other.”
To keep developing green jobs in San Diego and California, we need AB32. Sempra Energy, PG&E, Microsoft, and Google have all come out against Prop23 noting that AB 32 plays a critical role in helping California develop a low-carbon economy and it creates an environmentally friendly model for other states to follow. With AB32 in place, it can jumpstart our economy by keeping our jobs and environment safe.