Green Jobs Remain the Bright Spot in the Economy

Posted on 14 March 2012

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By Beth Gunston
California League of Conservation Voters

Green jobs have proven to be more than just a buzz term. As the grip of the recession continues to hold, a new report just put out by visionary group Next 10 provides stats that this budding sector of the economy is holding firm.

As pointed out in a L.A. Times article:

“The report suggests that amid volatile prices and tight markets, green entrepreneurs and their products and services will become increasingly competitive. California’s strong foundation of environmentally focused innovation and research, as well as its early-adopter culture, will also help.”

This is also thanks in part to strong environmental incentives and regulations that make California a hub for green industries and business practices. A great example is the renewable energy bill – SB 2X – that Brown signed last year which mandates that the state increases its supply of renewable energy to 33 percent by the year 2020.

But let’s not just leave it up to state government to encourage the perfect market place for green jobs. Another report put out by Next 10 last year noted that:

“...if the federal government increases fuel economy standards by 4-6 percent per year starting in 2017, California would see the following impacts by the year 2025:

“The addition of 38,000 to 236,000 jobs.

 “An increase in GSP of .82 percent to 1.31 percent.

 “A reduction of 8 percent to 19 percent of total GHG emissions.”

Or even better, the federal government can team up with the state government to promote job growth, as Governor Brown and Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar announced they would do back in January of this year. They signed an agreement that will help bring about the state’s renewable energy goals. As stated in their press release, the agreement will:

“pave the way for more than a dozen utility-scale solar energy projects and more than 130 renewable power projects in California....These projects...will generate thousands of construction jobs and power local economies.”

But green jobs aren’t just related to the renewable energy industry. So what is a green job? This is one of the most common questions about this somewhat nebulous term.  Next 10 describes what it calls the “Core Green Economy” as one that “provides the products and services that enable the transformation toward a cleaner, more efficient and more competitive economy. The Core Green Economy consists of businesses that provide the products and services that:

  • Provide alternatives to carbon-based energy sources
  • Conserve energy and all natural resources
  • Reduce pollution and repurpose waste

The Core Green Economy represents a diverse mix of industries.... [that] include energy generation and efficiency as well as transportation and water efficiency.”

And according to Phil Angelides, board member of the BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of environmental groups and labor unions, green jobs are ones that will enhance the quality of life for Californians. He sees a green job as one that

"has to pay decent wages and benefits that can support a family. It has to be part of a real career path, with upward mobility. And it needs to reduce waste and pollution and benefit the environment.”

Green For All, the organization started by Obama’s former “green jobs czar” Van Jones is working to ensure that those usually marginalized from economic advancements are included in the green job movement. They note that:

“most green collar jobs are middle-skill jobs requiring more education than high school, but less than a four-year degree -- and are well within reach for lower-skilled and low-income workers as long as they have access to effective training programs and appropriate supports.”

So while we wait for the rest of our economy to rebound, it's assuring to know that our efforts to establish solid environmental regulations here in California are a driving factor in growing new quality job markets that have something to offer all Californians.


Beth Gunston is the Campaigns and Outreach Manager for the California League of Conservation Voters. This article originally appeared on the CLCV blog Groundswell.

First, if green jobs are so great and California is so big in green then why is unemployment in California so high? Secondly, if green is so great why are the electric bills so high? Finally, if green is so great why is business moving out so fast?

There's a lot of stupid in your Fox News brain installed comments. First, green jobs alone can't solve our unemployment problem alone...the important fact is they are one of the only growing sectors, and its a sector that serves the greater good, and offers decent wages to boot. Second, electric bills are high because we have companies like PG&E that are always looking to jack up prices...and, we've got a LONG way to go to properly invest in renewable energy and efficiency measures - steps opposed by the right wing every step in the way, even as we heavily subsidize DESTRUCTIVE energy sources like coal, oil, and nuclear.

No one said that the slow and steady increase in renewable, CLEAN sources of energy is going to somehow make the utility monopolies suddenly drastically lower your electric bill. The benefits of shifting to clean energy and green jobs is about a whole lot more than your electric bill...its about reducing CO2 emissions (that cause climate change), reducing air pollution, and improving health...while creating good jobs. And to your last idiotic point, businesses AREN'T moving out of California, nor are your precious millionaires.

Three studies prove these points... in terms of the rich leaving...and same goes for businesses:

· Tax Flight Is a Myth: Higher State Taxes Bring More Revenue, Not More Migration by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities,
· Millionaire Migration and State Taxation of Top Incomes: Evidence from a Natural Experiment by researchers from Stanford and Princeton,
· and The Number of High-Income Tax Earners Increased Significantly During a Period of 10% and 11% Tax Rates on High Income Earners by the California Budget Project.

Unemployment is high for a lot of reasons...namely a Wall Street induced housing bubble crash and austerity measures that have taken money out of the economy and resulted in the layoff of huge numbers of public employees (private sector jobs have actually grown)...the small amount we invest in green jobs, in comparison to ALL the money we spend on wars, tax cuts, and corporate subsidies, is not going to solve by itself unemployment.

So let me break it down real slow for you, so perhaps you can follow: the point is, and as the facts make clear, green jobs are growing even in a time of recession, these jobs are part of a CRITICAL shift from polluting energies and wasteful policies to clean energy and efficient policies, and they offer decent a time when few jobs are available and wages are stagnant.

Now move along now...your fifth grade teacher is wondering why you're late for school.

So, high California unemployment versus the rest of the nation is a coincidence? So, high California electric bill rates is just a coincidence? So, the decrease in number of high income individuals in California (even more of a decrease than in other states) is just a coincidence?

Sure. I've got some land to sell you, too.

Now, I'm going to assume you're not a child, or intellectually challenged in some serious what exactly are you responding to?

Who said anything about coincidence? In fact, my comment laid out PRECISELY why we have high unemployment and high electricity bills (which I only touched someone that works on these issues I could write a book on the "why's")...and in fact, the number of millionaires in California increased by 27% last year...even in the face of drastic cuts to the social safety net, increased poverty, and stagnant wages for the 99%. Why in the world, in the face of record wealth disparity (at least in the past 80 years), and record low taxes for the richest among us (at least in the past 60 years), would your concern be for them?

Are you really saying that unemployment and high electricity bills is because of our investments in renewable energy and green jobs? (even in the face of all the data that shows the positive impact they've had)

And, are you saying that the real problem we face is less super rich people? Or that we don't use enough polluting, fossil fuel based energy sources? (in the face of all the data that shows that their costs are actually HIGHER when you factor in the health and environmental costs)

I understand that people can be brainwashed and ignorant...but try to at least read the comments you're embarrassingly trying to respond to. Or more importantly, read the studies and data that can help you move beyond knuckle dragging status...and come join the rest of the educated, reality based community. We need more of us...not baseless talking points from Rush Limbaugh's show.

So, rather than selling land (???), go read...

How can I believe what you say when so much of it is obviously not even known. Consider this: a 27% increase in millionaire's in California last year. How would this even be known? IRS data isn't even filed for 2011 yet. We do know that the number of high income earners are decreasing from 2007 to 2009. but, the records after that aren't known, yet.

As far as electric rates are concerned, California has had high rates for years. We all know that. forcing the utilities to shut down fossil fuel plants and converting to renewables isn't cheap. And, yes, companies look at thingls like electric rates when it comes to expanding their operations. This is one of the reasons that aircraft assembly left California and why server farms are leaving now.

Ok, I'll go slower... as the Sac Bee just documented:

"The number of Californians reporting incomes of more than $1 million increased sharply last year, as did their share of the income stream, a new report from the Franchise Tax Board reveals. There were 10,000 taxpayers in the million-dollar income club during the 2009 tax year – just one-third of 1 percent of all returns – but that number jumped 27 percent to more than 13,000 for 2010, based on tax returns filed in 2011.

The millionaires reported adjusted gross incomes of $22.4 billion in 2009, an average of $2.2 million each. In 2010, the total jumped 30.2 percent to $29.1 billion, with the average remaining virtually unchanged.

It's okay, I realize you're not that bright...and I don't judge you for that. But, once again, your concern for those poor top truly sick.

The California Budget Project recently issued a report ( on who pays taxes, showing that those with the least income are paying the greatest share of their income and that an increasing number of high-income individuals are paying no personal state income tax.

Again, the fact that California has high electric bills has NO relationship to renewable energy just don't know what you're talking about. The RPS standard in California simply and slowly demands that utilities purchase a little more renewable sources each year - which has been a huge success...from decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels to creating good again, the DATA shows.

Your concern should be with utilities like PG&E and Edison...and polluting industries that cost our state lives, jobs, cleanup expenses and higher health care costs.

And, as I also provided, studies show the rich are not leaving California, and whatever businesses did leave California its not because we are investing in a green economy. Some businesses will always race to the bottom and head to places they can pollute as much as they want, pay nothing in taxes (hello Texas!), and pay their workers shit with fewer benefits. Why would we want to mimic that model? That's disastrous race to try and "win" the past three decades have proven.

I know none of this will get through to you...but I'll do this for anyone that might be reading your drivel (look to the article and my other comment for the FACTS about green jobs).

So here's a few basic points based on numbers crunched from the California Budget people understand just how well big business and the top 1% are doing in the face of widespread economic disenfranchisement and increasing assaults on the safety net:

The Share of Corporate Income Paid in Taxes Has Fallen by Nearly Half Since 1981

Tax Cuts Enacted Since 1993 in CA Cost $11.7 Billion in 2008-09 alone...

Lowest-Income Households Pay the Largest Share of Their Income in State and Local Taxes: Bottom fifth pays 11.7%, top 1% pays 7.1%.

Tax policies and economic trends are largest contributor to the state’s budget problems:

Corporate income taxes have declined over time as a share of General Fund revenues and as a share of corporate profits. If corporations had paid the same share of their profits in corporate taxes in 2006 as they did in 1981, corporate tax collections would have been $8.4 billion higher.

Extending the Bush tax cuts (overwhelmingly for the rich) alone cost California $14 billion this year...

Add to that the recession caused by Wall Street induced housing bubble and you have the other piece of our deficit puzzle.

Think Mitt Romney...taxed at less than 14% on the over $20 million he "made" doing nothing. As we know (not you, but as educated people know), the rich are taxed at the lowest rate in 60 years yet have a larger share of the wealth than at any time in 80 years. This, at a time we are devastating education, health services, infrastructure and public safety?

The top 1% in this country have more wealth than bottom 90% combined (YET they pay half the tax rate on ordinary income prior to 1981)....and the 6 Walton children from Walmart have more wealth than the bottom 30% of America COMBINED....yet are taxed at about 17%. The wealthiest 400 Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million people combined...and are taxed around 18%.

As the California Budget Project notes, "In response to sizeable budget shortfalls, lawmakers have repeatedly cut state spending in recent years. The Legislature reduced General Fund spending from $103.0 billion in 2007-08 to $87.3 billion in 2009-10 – a drop of 15.3 percent – as policymakers responded to the dramatic decline in revenues caused by the most severe economic downturn since the 1930s. In 2010-11, General Fund spending is estimated to be lower as a share of the state’s economy than in 33 of the prior 40 years, and expenditures will fall further under the spending plan approved by the Legislature in March."

A CBP analysis of state data shows that the cumulative impact of these cuts amounts to $2.7 billion between 2008-09 and 2011-12. These cuts require Californians with Medi-Cal coverage to pay more out of pocket for health services, reduce patients’ access to health services, and require seniors and persons with disabilities to enroll in managed care plans. This has led to Reduced funding that counties use to operate the Medi-Cal Program; Eliminated state support for community clinics; Required seniors to pay Medicare premiums; Reduced payments to medical providers by 10 percent; Required Medi-Cal enrollees to pay more for health services; and Eliminated coverage for adult dental care and other benefits."

Yet here you are...talking about the concern over big business and millionaires? And then, trying to equate green jobs and renewable energy as the reason for high energy bills? And, to somehow suggest that because unemployment is high, this takes away from the FACTS cited in this article? My god man...what trailer park did you escape from?

Here is what I don't get, if there is a 27% increase in the number of millionaires and we know that they pay a disproportionate amount of the taxes. For example, I read one survey that said that the top 1% paid 37% of the taxes. Then, if the numbers of millionaires are going up than California should have no tax problem at all.

Yet, the state controller just reported a tax revenue drop of 22%. How can this be?

And, as far as electric rates are concerned, California has pretty much the highest in the 48 states. Why is this? You say it has nothing to do with shutting down coal fired (and cheap) plants? It has nothing to do with being forced to buy windmill generated power (at $.18/kwhr vs. .05/kwhr for coal)? I guess you are saying it is all due to the incompetence and avarice of the utility companies and the regulatory commissions?

I find what you are saying just hard to believe. I will ignore all the name calling, afterall I was told by the president that we should try to be civil.

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Great article. Have you written anything about redevelopment around the LA Southwest College area. I am an Architect and LEED AP working with non-profits in the Inglewood, Compton Hawthorne areas to rebbuild local economy through green jobs by starting with weatherization, renovation and Solar energy initiatives. we are combining forces with LA Southwest Community College to retrain people into green jobs. can we connect with your Green for All to work together?

Hi Rinaldo - Thanks for supporting the greening of the job market. I am based in the Bay Area and do not work directly with Green For All, but I can tell you they're a group that's getting a lot done in communities all over the nation. You can find a list of their staff here: They should be able to point you to the right person.
Good luck!