March 30, 2012
By David W. Kreutzer, Ph.D.
Green jobs - or, as our president calls them, the "jobs of the future" - have been notoriously tough to define and count. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics recently did it, though, and now it's the result that's notorious.
Facing an admittedly difficult project, the BLS created a definition that is so broad as to make it a meaningless measure of the green economy. Here's a sneak preview: There are 33 times as many green jobs in the septic tank and portable toilet servicing industry as there are in solar electricity utilities.
The meaninglessness of the green-jobs count has not stopped the cheerleaders for green mandates and subsidies from trying to use it to justify more of the same. They point to the nearly 500,000 green jobs in manufacturing. Maybe they have visions of 500,000 people assembling windmills and hybrid cars.
If so, they need to put away the rose-colored glasses, get out the green eyeshades, and look at the data more closely.
The largest green-job producers in manufacturing are steel mills. More than 50 percent of the jobs in steel mills are counted as green, because most of our steel is made from scrap steel. And according to Part 3 of the BLS definition, if you recycle, your job is green. The trend toward greater use of scrap steel, however, goes back decades; it's not the result of green subsidies.
So what do the jobs of the future look like? Here are some industries and the number of green jobs reported by the BLS:
School bus and employee transportation (private): 160,896.
Waste collection: 116,293.
Used-merchandise stores: 106,865.
Engineering services: 100,847.
Architectural services: 71,891.
It looks as if the new green economy the president promised tilts toward driving school buses, picking up trash, and working at Goodwill - not designing green buildings and high-tech equipment, as most imagine.
Yes, many categories include jobs that are green enough to justify inclusion. But they are diluted with so many others that the total can't be used in any debate about the importance of green jobs to our economy or the effectiveness of green-jobs policies.
One reporter gushed about the 44,000 green jobs in the electric utility industry. However, more than 80 percent of those jobs are in the nuclear sector, which is not universally loved by the environmental movement. In addition, since we have not licensed and built a new nuclear power plant in more than 30 years, those jobs are not part of any new economy.
There is yet another irony in the jobs numbers: While social advocacy organizations can claim 20,704 green jobs, the renewable portion of the electric power generation industry (wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal) have only 4,700. So it looks as if more people have jobs promoting green energy than making green energy.
Unfortunately, five times as many lobbyists as workers does sound like the economy of the future.
David Kreutzer is a research fellow in energy economics and climate change at the Heritage Foundation Center for Data Analysis.
First moved on the McClatchy Tribune Wire service
Energy & Environment Initiative of the Leadership for America Campaign
David W. Kreutzer, Ph.D.
Research Fellow in Energy Economics and Climate Change
Read More >>
Request an interview >>
Please complete the following form to request an interview with a Heritage expert.
Please note that all fields must be completed.
Heritage's daily Morning Bell e-mail keeps you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.
The subscription is free and delivers you the latest conservative policy perspectives on the news each weekday--straight from Heritage experts.
The Morning Bell is your daily wake-up call offering a fresh, conservative analysis of the news.
More than 200,000 Americans rely on Heritage's Morning Bell to stay up to date on the policy battles that affect them.
Rush Limbaugh says "The Heritage Foundation's Morning Bell is just terrific!"
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) says it's "a great way to start the day for any conservative who wants to get America back on track."
Sign up to start your free subscription today!
The Heritage Foundation is the nation’s most broadly supported public policy research institute, with hundreds of thousands of individual, foundation and corporate donors. Heritage, founded in February 1973, has a staff of 275 and an annual expense budget of $82.4 million.
Our mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Read More
© 2013, The Heritage Foundation Conservative policy research since 1973