Three years after President Obama promised that millions of “green jobs” would sprout from $90 billion in stimulus spending earmarked for clean energy, only a small fraction have materialized.
Supporters say the administration overpromised on the potential for job creation and worry that backlash could erode support for overall renewable energy policies.
“All of this stuff is extraordinarily worthy for driving long-term economic transformation but extremely inappropriate to sell as a short-term job program,” said Mark Muro, a clean-energy expert at the Brookings Institution.
A $500 million job-training program focused on clean energy has so far helped fewer than 20,000 people find work – far short of its goal of placing 80,000 workers in green jobs by 2013. The program’s initial results were so poor that the Labor Department’s inspector general last fall recommended the agency return $327 million that had not been spent.
Janet Blumen, who heads the Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow, a Las Vegas-based job-training organization, said she has seen positions in trucking and accounting go unfilled because training money was earmarked for green jobs.
“From my perspective, it makes more sense for us to arm our clients with basic skills, rather than saying, ‘By golly, you will do something in the green economy or you won’t work,’” Blumen said.
Gains in the renewable energy industry do not necessarily lead to wider employment. The wind industry, for example, has nearly doubled in capacity since 2009 but shed 10,000 jobs during that period. Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry has added 75,000 jobs since Obama took office, according to statistics from the Labor Department (Andy Sullivan, Reuters, April 13).
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