Training for Jobs That Will Never Come

A lot of people are pinning their hopes to the emergence of a “green economy,” but wishing won’t make it less of a fad:

Although it offers general optimism about the green sector, the state plan does not say how large the industry could be in Rhode Island or how many jobs it could create. The New England Economic Partnership, however, issued a report in November that projected the green economy would not be a major engine of growth in Rhode Island and the region in the immediate future. That report cited a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts that found only about 2,300 green jobs in Rhode Island in 2007.

The major difference between “green” and other revolutionary developments is that it doesn’t create anything new. The Internet was an entirely unexplored public square and marketplace. Green energy is, well, energy. It doesn’t do anything that regular old energy doesn’t do, and the only thing “new” that it offers is a chance for everybody along the line of its production and usage to feel as if they’re helping the environment. If there’s any price differential at all, few people are going to seek out green.
Yet, we’re distorting market dynamics in expectation of a wave that may not come:

The Providence Plan, a local nonprofit focused on socioeconomic advancement, will launch a jobs-training program next month geared at getting low-income city residents trained in the energy-efficient construction and renewable-power industries.
Thanks to a $3.7-million grant from the federal stimulus plan, the Providence Plan will be able to expand Building Futures, the agency’s program helping urban residents prepare to enter apprenticeships in carpentry, electrical work, welding, plumbing and other construction trades.

Training low-income, under-skilled people for work of any kind is a positive good of itself. But construction has been among the most receding industries in the state, and if the “green” thing doesn’t pan out, there will be even more workers chasing even fewer jobs.
From where I sit, the situation appears to be one in which activists, politicians, and invested private business interests are pushing to use public money to create an industry segment for ideological and financial reasons. They’re using public money because the private money is not there, and if their gamble doesn’t yield rewards, the consequence will be paid by the working class in suppressed wages.

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Monique
Editor
11 years ago

“the situation appears to be one in which activists, politicians, and invested private business interests are pushing to use public money to create an industry segment for ideological and financial reasons. They’re using public money because the private money is not there, and if their gamble doesn’t yield rewards, the consequence will be paid by the working class in suppressed wages”
And unnecessarily higher taxes.
Exactly right, Justin. There is nothing sustainable, productive or economically desireable about an industry that is funded by the government; i.e., by tax dollars collected at gunpoint.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
11 years ago

What makes me suspicious is that it has never been made clear why Rhode Island has any relative advantage in attracting green industry. The question to be answered is simply “why should green industries come here”?

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

Warrington, why so specific? Why not just “Why should (any) industries come here?”

Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
11 years ago

“Green” is the color of the tarp (pun intended) used to disguise the continuation and expansion of the discredited “job training programs” that have been around since the 1960’s, political pork, and Soviet-style “5 year plan” government-imposed industrial policy.
As for Rhode Island, as has been noted already, there’s nothing about “green” that would render Rhode Island competitive against other states which offer lower energy costs for manufacturing (how’s that for a “chicken and egg” dilemma?); far less political corruption; right-to-work / absence of union dominance; better public education system / higher skilled workforce; far lower taxes and (unlike RI) a history and culture of being “pro-business.”
The EDC’s “green” stuff is just more of the usual political smokescreen / dog and pony show to make it look like government in RI actually cares about “working families” and actually cares about improving the states economy … so they can avoid actually doing what is really necessary, getting spending under control, massively lowering taxes, passing right-to-work legislation, freezing the pension system, etc.

mangeek
mangeek
11 years ago

I’m rather disgusted by the way the left has pushed ‘green’. Conservation and good design that encourages it need-not be expensive or wasteful.
Instead of framing efficiency, conservation, and smart design as measures that give us more output per dollar spent, the left has whipped-up a portion of the population into believing that a solar panel or a Prius is ‘saving the world’.
We don’t net-produce energy. Virtually all of every dollar spent on energy in Rhode Island is money that never comes back again. That’s why stuff like ‘deepwater’ actually shows some promise, there’s a macroeconomic component to it that might warrant a higher electric bill. Insulation and double-glazed windows can actually have a huge personal economic impact. I know I’m saving a bundle this winter, and that money is going into the Rhode Island economy instead of fuel-producing states.
Helping people insulate means more money to spend during the heating season, and it can pay for itself in about five years. Unfortunately, the way ‘heating assistance’ works makes it easier and cheaper to just crank up the heat and let someone else pay.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
11 years ago

Mangeek writes:
“I’m rather disgusted by the way the left has pushed ‘green’. Conservation and good design that encourages it need-not be expensive or wasteful.
Instead of framing efficiency, conservation, and smart design as measures that give us more output per dollar spent, the left has whipped-up a portion of the population into believing that a solar panel or a Prius is ‘saving the world’.”
“Good design”, there is an old architectural maxim that “good design doesn’t cost any more than bad design”. I don’t know if “good design” can make houses 100% “green” at no additional cost, but a 40% increase is probably easily obtainable. Simply “building up” instead of “out” is one of them (less roof).
“the left has whipped-up a portion of the population” Without a doubt, “environmentalism” has taken the place of religion for many. I have the feeling that many believe that “global warming” is because we have angered the Gods. To make amends, we must “make sacrifices”. All through school, prior to college, my daughter was assailed with environmental warnings. The earliest I can remember is summer camp warnings that McDonalds was destroying the rain forest. From there it progreesed to more sophisticated warnings. Did anyone else see the Audi ad on Super Bowl? I thought it was a mild exaggeration, but a harbinger of things to come.

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