Friday, June 26, 2009

Green Anxiety

"When the president speaks of 'new green energy economies' creating 'countless well-paying jobs,' perhaps they really are countless, meaning incapable of being counted."

George F. Will, "Tilting at Green Windmills," The Washington Post, June 25, 2009.

The greening discussion deserves a good bit of here-and-now skepticism but not dismissal. Green jobs at the scale President Obama speechifies will be possible only if a robust set of federal, state, and local policies about climate change and energy independence are put in place. A more modest estimate of policy change and green jobs by the U.S.Conference of Mayors is the creation of 4.2 million jobs over thirty years. Until then, we have the opportunity to develop solid pilot projects in sub-sectors of the green economy where jobs exist or will soon be created by federal stimulus/recovery dollars. And, these jobs are countable, not countless.

Some may not agree with energy independence and reducing our carbon footprint as worthy public goals. And these goals are certainly not costless to achieve in dollars and sense. But investing in new industries has always involved chasing windmills and defying cost/benefit analyses -- the Hamiltonian way. Unfortunately, we are trying to straddle short-run economic woes with long-run economic potential and environmental necessity. The words get away from us.

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