THE BLOG
04/29/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Washington Post Fostering Confusion About Clean Energy Opportunities

The Washington Post asked the other day "what's going on" that people are confused about climate and energy issues. Well, today's the Washington Post provided yet another example, in a stressingly long list of examples, as to why that confusion exists.

Entitled The Green Jobs Myth, former GE Smart Grid engineer Sunil Sharan claims that (as per the title) promoters of a green energy economy are being deceptive in arguing that clean energy jobs provide a pathway forward to greater prosperity, increased competitiveness, improve security, lower pollution levels, and lowering the unemployment rates (quickly). Sharan would likely agree with those first four "wins" but argues that the fifth won't occur: "Let's consider just one clean-energy sector, the smart grid, for its job-creation potential."

Here is where Sharan takes a misstep into misleading rather than informing. He has chosen to stove-pipe into a very narrow space. It is Sharan's expertise area and let's grant him that. And we can simply assume that he correctly discusses the specific item within the article: how, within the world of meter reading, execution of a more efficient and more automated electrical grid could lead to lower employment in the specific domain of meter reading. Yes, "smart" meters that can be read remotely, via a computer linkup, will lead to lowered employment in having meter readers trudging through our yards to get to the meters. Yes, a transition to a clean energy economy will lead to some job losses ... even as it creates new jobs and new opportunities.

Even within the "smart grid" example, Sharan doesn't deal (at all) with the likely new opportunities for the creation of smarter appliances and the installation of these systems. He doesn't discuss the business opportunities in helping government, business, and individual develop integrated 'smart homes' to interact with the Smart Grid.

Sharan doesn't give readers any indication as to the complicated system-of-systems that is impacted and relates back to energy.

Sharan doesn't offer up the potential that there are arenas where clean energy policies would create growth.

Sharan doesn't provide a truthful discussion.

While we might require fewer meter readers (and lowered pollution from their driving around our neighborhoods), will we need electricians to install smarter homes? Will stores selling appliances see greater business flow (and thus more sales people, installers, etc ...) due to people upgrading toward greater energy efficiency? Will there be more people employed insulating homes?

Sharan does, however, remind us of those who warned that that electric trolleys and internal combustion engines hurt the career prospects of buggy whip salesmen and stable boys who had less horse manure to collect. Sharan does, however, remind us of those who focused on how email hurts postal revenues. Sharan does remind us of all those doomsayers who fight change, focusing on the reality that change can have costs, even though it can bring greater benefits. Sharan does provide us some of that manure for stable boys to clean up.

Our energy "system" is incredibly complex. A stove-piped discussion, which fails to link into the complexity, has a high potential for misinforming. And, that is what Sharan's op-ed does. While providing likely correct information about the specific career field of electrical meter reading, this information misrepresents the opportunities for explosive growth and win-win-win-win-win-win space with serious promotion of clean energy jobs.