Toops Scoops: Going Green -- Promise Deferred?

Last June, AA&B took an in-depth look at insurers and agents who were specializing in "green" insurance coverage. Our sources spoke glowingly of the potential for growth in green construction, especially in the area of retrofitting existing buildings -- a topic covered in a current Web exclusive article on the subject.

Supporters maintain that adopting green building methods and materials will create a "green collar" job transformation in the U.S.  The latest figures from the USGBC in a "Green Jobs Study" conducted by Booz Allen suggests that green building will support or create 7.9 million jobs between now and 2013. And in certain areas of the country, it seems to be working. One independent study shows California green jobs grew 36 percent from 1995 to 2008.

But President Obama's campaign promises to create 5 million new green jobs and put the U.S. in the forefront of renewable energy production have failed to materialize. Ironically, China, which for years has been reviled for its profligate use of nonrenewable energy, is now the world leader in the production of off-grid wind turbine generators, according to a recent article in EcoWorld.com.

According to a recent article in Fast Company magazine, there is terrific potential for green job growth in these areas:

  • Farmers
  • Foresters
  • Solar power installers
  • Energy efficient builders
  • Wind turbine fabricators
  • Conservation biologists
  • Green entrepreneurs
  • Recyclers
  • Sustainability systems developers
  • Urban planners

This list is inclusive enough to accommodate all levels of workers, from MBAs to retrained blue-collar people.

Nobody should be cheering green jobs more than the insurance industry. With the manufacturing and construction industries struggling to find a place in the "new normal" economy, a burst of new activity in the green jobs area could pull these and other industries out of the doldrums.

But as the California example indicates, it takes more than hope to build the new green collar middle class American worker. Green is "gold" in California in large part because of state and municipal rules mandating green compliance. Like any fledgling industry, green jobs need some government incentive to get off the ground. As long as it's cheaper to keep doing things the old way, the green promise will remain just that. In China, the government subsidizes wind power, knowing the young industry won't be self-sustaining for years, but willing to make the investment. It seems if we really want to dig ourselves out of our current economic malaise, our country would be better served by a government that's willing to invest in the future instead of propping up relics from the past.

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