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Green Jobs Coming Up

Vice President Biden led a task force recently on creating green jobs.

Among the opportunities: weatherization.

Among the challenges: connecting people to jobs.

Some questions: the role of organized labor, business, and of public/private partnerships.

A friend of mine told me a story that illustrated some issues we’ve had over the last decade with a more sustainable economy that promotes environmental protection and energy efficiency. His refrigerator was on the blink. Before calling for help, Dave tried to pinpoint the problem himself. He removed the cover at the bottom of the unit, where he saw some metal coils in the dark nook. Dave assumed that they were condensing coils. He didn’t notice any frozen condensation on the outside of the coils, so he called the repairman. Dave conveyed his attempt at diagnosis to the repairman, at which time the repairman started laughing uncontrollably. Frustrated, Dave replied, “What are you laughing about?” Mr. Refrigerator Repairman expounded, “You were looking in the ass end of the thing when you needed to look at the brain. The freezer coils are up at the freezer.” David grimaced as he learned about the finer points of appliance anatomy from his new friend.

A broken refrigerator is a lot like a broken economy: You need to look in the right end

So what’s the point? I’m very excited about the potential that exists for creating green jobs, and the initiative is long overdue. As a green builder, I have witnessed firsthand the economic slowdown, and it is great to see some potential relief for our sector. As a nation, we are now looking in the right place for the freezer coils. Evidence of the potential for green jobs is happening as I write this very blog. The White House Task Force on Middle Class Families held its first meeting last week in Philadelphia. Chaired by Vice President Joe Biden, the Task Force is charged with delivering relief to the pinched middle class and the millions of unemployed. The administration sees the most sensical and forward-thinking solution is through green jobs. Vice President Biden wrote in an editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer,

“According to the Council of Economic Advisers, green jobs pay 10 to 20 percent more than other jobs. They also are more likely to be union jobs. Building a new power grid, manufacturing solar panels, weatherizing homes and office buildings, and renovating schools are just a few of the ways to create high-quality green jobs that strengthen the foundation of this country.”

As further evidence of the administration’s commitment to green job creation, the Senate approved with authoritative, bipartisan support US Rep. Hilda Solis as Secretary of the Department of Labor. Rep. Solis designed and introduced the Green Jobs Act of 2007 and has long championed green-collar jobs. It seems that the administration genuinely values green jobs enough to put an expert in the field at the helm. This should translate into good things for builders and related businesses that are incorporating green building practices.

The Middle Class Task Force has its work cut out

Secretaries of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Agriculture will join the Directors of the National Economic Council, the Office of Management and Budget, the Domestic Policy Council, and the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers make up this task force. They’ve set these goals:

  • Expanding education and lifelong training opportunities
  • Improving work and family balance
  • Restoring labor standards, including workplace safety
  • Helping to protect middle-class and working-family incomes
  • Protecting retirement security
  • On the agenda:

    • How can we change Washington to make green jobs a political reality? (John Podesta, President and CEO, Center for American Progress)
    • How can we ensure access to green jobs to everyone? (Van Jones, founding President, Green for All)
    • How do we connect people who need jobs to companies that need people? (Fred Krupp, president, Environmental Defense Fund)
    • How can the federal government help bring green jobs to the middle class? (Carol Browner, assistant to President Obama on energy and climate change)
    • What’s the role of the labor movement in creating green jobs and training workers for them? (Leo Gerard, International president, Steelworkers of America)
    • How do you create green jobs in a city? (Michael Nutter, mayor of Philadelphia)
    • How can public-private partnerships help train people for green jobs? (Cecilia Estolano, CEO, Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Authority)
    • What’s the role for business? (Mark Edlen, president, Gerding-Edlen)
    • I’ll keep you posted on the outcomes of the meetings as information becomes available and what it could mean for all facets of the home-building industry, from builders to raters to trades. There will be a lot of opportunity for weatherization projects, renewable energy, and green redevelopment and retrofitting, and I’ll do my best to keep people in the building industry abreast of what they can do to find opportunity, retrain, and get jobs. This could be a bright spot on the horizon.


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