Growing Green Jobs

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

President Obama is visiting a solar power generation plant today in Arcadia, Fla., to announce a massive smart grid plan that will provide $3.4 billion in stimulus funds to 100 utilities. The payoff for workers? According to his chief economist, Jared Bernstein, this will "save or create tens of thousands of jobs," including equipment installers, electrical engineers, communications systems analysts and data entry clerks. The number may be a bit vague, but the track record for clean energy job creation has been good: A Pew Charitable Trust report said that renewable energy jobs grew twice as fast as the national rate between 1998 and 2007.

Needless to say, the announcement is welcome news: Job losses are up and unemployment benefits are vanishing for many of the unemployed. And to make matters more worrisome, the jobless recovery from the 2000-2001 recession leaves reason to doubt that the market can do any better this time around than during the last eight years.

Besides green job creation by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, we stand to see still more jobs via two pending pieces of legislation: the American Clean Energy and Security Act (or ACES), and the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act. Both were the subject of a recent study by researchers at UC Berkeley, Yale and the University of Illinois, which found that nationwide they would create between 918,000 and 1.9 million new jobs (pdf) and increase household income by $487 to $1,175 annually.

Of course, if you were to listen to some conservative commentators, green jobs require the stimulus funds because they can't exist in a free economy. Apparently, that would be the free economy that has consistently provided tax breaks and other funding for the oil and gas industry (not to mention refraining from fees for the health and environmental damage) while scanting alternative energy for decades. Yet the $3.4 billion is, in fact, seed money that will be matched by $4.7 billion in private investment.

With hopes pinned on green jobs being among the first sparks to help kindle a rise in the economy, it's worth taking a look at actual green jobs in U.S. cities. Rob Goodier profiles programs in four U.S. cities ranging from San Jose's clean tech push to Pittsburgh's retrofits for affordable housing. Read on for the full story...