Is Washington State Falling Behind in the Green Collar Revolution?

This guy has three green collars (plus one blue, just to keep it real)
That's what a Pew Charitable Trust study that came out earlier this week said. The study found that clean energy jobs grew at 2.5 times the pace of the rest of the economy from 1998-2007 (hence the term "Green Collar Revolution") but ranked Washington in the quadrant of states that was second-to-last in such jobs, with only .55% of the state's jobs qualifying. By contrast, Oregon sports a whopping 1.02%, first in the country.

Is Washington really that far behind? Alan Durning of local environmental think tank Sightline Institute says no. "The study is a good first attempt to measure the number of green jobs nationwide, but I'll put the emphasis on 'first attempt,' because measuring green jobs is quite challenging," he says. Citing a wide array of green job training and placement programs, Durning says the state is among the leaders in making the transition to a clean energy economy. He also notes that a state survey that used a conservative methodology--e.g. not counting any public sector or non-profit jobs as green--still showed a larger percentage of green jobs in Washington than the Pew survey showed. See Durning's review of the state survey here.

Counting green jobs is so challenging partly because defining them is challenging. "Green collar cuts across a whole mess of different categories," says Durning. "It includes somebody who works for a non-profit organizing farmer's markets, somebody in the public sector who drives a bus or who paints bike paths, or a carpenter who does retrofits for homes to improve their energy efficiency. Or somebody who works in solar electricity. There's no simple way to tease apart the numbers."

Either way, he says Washington's future looks green, given a wide array of job training and placement programs, as well as the federal money on its way via the stimulus package and budget. "Washington can hope to receive as much as $3 billion in clean energy investments [from the Federal government]," he notes. There will be a lot more than that if the Waxman-Markey climate change bill passes. In this context, Jay Inslee's announcement yesterday of $386,000 in federal money for solar technology and more efficient lumber practices is just "two drips from what is really a firehose," says Durning.

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