Strange Bedfellows

Strange Bedfellows

Because we have the technology and drive to pursue all things green, we like to think we’ve evolved beyond the smog. A critical part, however, is missing. Our green hopes will fade to black if we don’t address it.

A 2006 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory reported that the lack of a skilled workforce is the largest nontechnical obstacle to the advancement of renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted that we will see a 1.7 million shortfall in working-age people this year.

We may not have the labor resources to bring the green dream to reality. This realization has led to the emergence of yet another buzz phrase: “green-collar jobs.”

The American Solar Energy Society estimates that, in 2006, renewable energy and energy-efficiency initiatives were responsible for 8.5 million jobs. These so-called green-collar jobs can be found in wind turbine manufacturing, solar panel installation and green building projects. Material handling plays a role in all these areas.

Two unlikely partners—
labor unions and environment-
alists—
are putting aside their differences to promote two colors: blue (for labor) and green (for environmentalism). The Blue Green Alliance (BGA) was formed in 2006 by the United Steelworkers (USW) and the Sierra Club. The BGA works to boost the creation of green jobs, reform trade agreements and accelerate investments in renewable energy and other green technologies.

Mary Aichlmayr
Mary Aichlmayr
Senior Editor maichlmayr@
MHMonline.com

On Apr. 8, the BGA met with members of the USW, Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in Niles, Ohio, to launch the national Green Jobs for America campaign. The nationwide initiative will encourage investments from the private sector and focus on policies to fight global warming, expand clean energy production and reform trade agreements. It’s a serious commitment to create more than 820,000 green-collar jobs.

Teams of organizers from the USW, Sierra Club, NRDC and Blue Green Alliance will participate in grassroots activities, conduct public events, release independent studies highlighting the potential for new green jobs and generate signatures on a petition calling for green jobs, clean energy solutions and fair trade agreements.

The public education campaign will take place in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, Missouri, Virginia, Tennessee, Florida, Oregon, and Nebraska. It will run through Sept. 15.

An independent study conducted last year for the BGA by the Renewable Energy Policy Project found that these 12 states can gain nearly 263,000 new manufacturing jobs in the wind-turbine and solarpower equipment industries alone.

However, BGA Executive Director David Foster explained that green jobs include not only those that produce a green product but also existing jobs that involve a green process or purpose. He said that steelworkers building components for wind turbines are performing green jobs, as are chemical workers making products that are not harmful to humans or the environment.

“The green revolution isn’t just creating new and different jobs,” said Foster. “It’s revitalizing and creating new investment in a lot of the jobs we already have.”

If we are to rise above the smog of rhetoric and embrace all things green, we need to support future generations who will be bringing the concept to life. That is, in essence, what the BGA is all about.

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