View Full Version : Green Collar in OKC

05-28-2008, 07:41 AM
Being Earth-friendly in Oklahoma is all in a day's work
By John David Sutter
Staff Writer

The term "green-collar” has been around since the 1990s, but the name didn't get much use until this year, when it worked its way into the mainstream presidential campaign. And it's just now finding its way onto the lips of a few people in Oklahoma.
Green-collar jobs refer to ... well, a bunch of things, depending on to whom you talk. Green-collar jobs can be held by people who maintain wind turbines or bicycles, design energy-efficient cars or solar panels, work in national parks or at nuclear power plants.

The jobs are often talked about as a replacement for manufacturing work that has left the United States.

These "green” jobs, advocates say, can't be exported. And political candidates talk them up as huge boosters for the American economy.

The problem: Without a standard definition or much research, the potential impact of green-collar jobs is hard to quantify.

Officials and experts in Oklahoma offered up a variety of definitions.

Miles Tolbert, the state secretary of the environment, says the jobs must be new to qualify as green-collar. So existing park rangers in the state don't count.

Tom Price, Chesapeake Energy spokesman, said all jobs in the natural gas industry, new or not, should qualify. The Center for American Progress says the jobs must "contribute directly to preserving or enhancing environmental quality.”

Mike Seney, spokesman for The State Chamber, started to laugh at the fact that bike shop workers came up when he Googled "green-collar jobs.”

"I was going to ridicule that a little bit, but down here at 10th and Broadway (in Oklahoma City), there are a couple of bike shops going up on Automobile Alley,” he said.

What's the dollar impact?
Information on the economic impact of green-collar jobs is limited.
•A report from the American Solar Energy Society says that in 2006, the U.S. created 8.5 million jobs in renewable energy and energy efficient industries, with $970 billion in industry revenues that year.

•A small study in Berkeley, Calif., found green jobs to be profitable — with 94 percent of green employers giving training to people in entry-level positions.

Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton say they will create 5 million green jobs, with Obama saying that will happen in 10 years. Sen. John McCain backs training and research in green technologies, according to Forbes magazine.

But while presidential candidates tout their green job plans, there's been little talk about green jobs in Oklahoma.

Some of the discussion has come from outsiders.

Former President Clinton referred to them while campaigning in Norman for his wife earlier this year.

"And the most important source of new jobs, in Oklahoma and every place in America, is making every building as energy efficient as possible,” he said, according to reports.

Tolbert said in an interview that Oklahoma is poised to benefit from developments in alternative energy. Instead of replacing oil and gas jobs that run the state's economy, green-collar jobs in wind energy should be seen as more of a supplement, he said.

"There is no question that green technologies are going to be part of the global economy,” he said.

He said he's not aware of training programs for green jobs in Oklahoma, or any legislation here to address the issue.

But he said Oklahoma will be a major player in wind energy — with the potential to export the energy to the southeastern U.S. For every 100 megawatts of electricity produced, seven or eight people will get full-time jobs to maintain the wind turbines, he said.

Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute told the New York Times that green jobs don't produce net gains in the job market — because jobs in renewable energies "will take away jobs in other industries,” like those offered by traditional power companies.

Seney said universities shouldn't invest in the training until the market demands it.

Steve Schlegel, who owns Schlegel Bicycles, said he had never heard of the term "green collar” — but that his growing work force should qualify since it has quadrupled in the last few years. He now employs about 15 people

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