by Tim Cavanaugh
What can $60 billion buy these days? Fast Company checks up on the Obama Administration's "green economy" initiative to see how many shovel-ready green-collar jobs have been saved or created in the days since renewable industry got its sustainable beer at the White House:
Many wind and solar companies have cut back on employees as the economic climate has eaten away at bottom lines, and a disconnect between state and federal officials regarding the best way to spur green job development creates bureaucratic obstacles to getting stimulus cash into the right hands.
But the funding is coming. Last week Obama announced $2.4 billion in grants to be distributed to various companies developing electric vehicles and more efficient battery technologies. Energy Secretary Steven Chu last week said $3 billion in renewable energy grants will boost green employment, and that while it's taking some time to review grant proposals, more federal dollars for green jobs are in queue.
So, as Martin asked Lewis, ya workin'?
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Employment in the green economy is limited to just one-half of 1% of all U.S. jobs, and while that number was climbing last summer, the economic downturn put a damper on many green initiatives. The freezing of credit markets and a plunge in fossil fuel prices undermined the funding for many planned green energy projects while at the same time robbing them of their urgency.
Half a percent is more than I would have expected. It's also more than Green Energy Czar Van Jones estimated in a recent "where have all the green jobs gone" interview with Newsweek:
Well, we still don't have a unified definition, and that's not unusual in a democracy. It takes a while for all the states and the federal government to come to some agreement. But the Department of Labor is working on it very diligently. Fundamentally, it's getting there, but we haven't crossed the finish line yet.
Given Jones' background it's probably an improvement that he now blames democracy for failure instead of blaming capitalism. Once that unified definition comes out, installing freon in the air conditioner of a leaded-gas Escalade made entirely of depleted uranium will count as a green job. But by then there won't be any of those jobs either.