Green energy investment comes with a steep price tag. So too does business as usual.
A Los Angeles-based program—the only one like it for janitors in the country—has helped align janitorial staffs with the sustainability goals of office building owners.
Co-published by Slate
Solar-panel installers workers are riding a “solarcoaster” — joining an industry that has provided jobs and opportunity to tens of thousands of workers — while also raising concerns about how fairly workers in a fast-growing, Wall Street-fueled industry are being treated.
When Californians passed Proposition 39 last year, they voted for more carbon reduction, school improvements and jobs – all through a five-year, $2.5 billion program using revenues from newly closed tax loopholes to pay for investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Now state policymakers are making critical decisions as they craft the guidelines for this massive new investment.
School facilities are the primary target of Proposition 39 retrofitting efforts. But if the measure is going to deliver on its promises of carbon reduction, healthier schools and neighborhoods, long-term career opportunities and a timely economic boost for communities that need it the most, the proposition needs to be implemented right.
I’ve been studying the green jobs sector since its early days, and my research and observations suggest some important recommendations.
(Editor’s Note: Living in Los Angeles is a day-to-day experiment requiring patience and improvisational skills. So does governing this sprawling metropolis of 3.8 million people. The city’s next mayor, however, cannot be satisfied with merely coping with issues as they arise, but must be able to look forward and anticipate and define the city’s needs for the next four years. To this end we’ve asked writers to share their thoughts about what lies ahead – and around the corner – for Los Angeles.)
Going green may be all the rage. But get into the weeds and you may lose a few people. Take energy efficiency. Yes, it’ll save you money, create good jobs (if done right) and help us preserve the planet. But walk into a party and start talking about window caulking, attic insulation and compact fluorescent bulbs, and you may soon find yourself alone in a corner.
With the rejection of Mitt Romney’s economic vision, wherein the invisible hand of the free market guides us to prosperity (at least those not in the lazy 47 percent), progressives are now on the spot to offer up a compelling alternative.
Using animation and the vocal talents of Ed Asner, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) jumps into the ring with the short video “It’s in Our Hands.” This is no ten-point plan, but instead a conceptual piece whose primary assertion is that we start to take the idea of democracy much more seriously when it comes to the economic order of things.
What if we could shape the U.S. economy to reflect the values and interests of most Americans? LAANE, which has had some success in doing just that, maintains that we can — and must.
(Note: This post first appeared September 5 on Huffington Post and is republished with permission.)
You wouldn’t think that green jobs and gangs in America have much in common. But that’s before you realize that one has the power to positively change the other.
As the political rhetoric heated up last week in Tampa, many listened to hear how Mitt Romney will address the economic concerns felt by many Americans. For the past year, clashes between the one percent and those left behind have shed a new light on wealth disparity in our country. At a time when we’re expected to hit a record 66 million people living at or below the federal poverty line, our political leaders must support bold, innovative solutions that address the varied sources of poverty in our country.
The notion of job creation as a solution to [poverty] is nothing new.
A question that is being asked by talking heads on the right-wing yak shows lately is, “Where are all the green jobs?” Well, there is a simple answer: Those jobs are here in the Southwest, my little conservative Debbie Downers. All over Southern California, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona you will find massive solar projects with thousands of construction workers getting their first paychecks in months or, in some cases, years. There are so many solar-energy jobs helping us climb out of the absolute depression in the electrical industry that you can’t swing a Birkenstock and not hit one.
That’s right, despite their efforts to kill every single meaningful jobs bill in the House and Senate for the last four years, conservatives have failed to stop the sprouts and shoots of the new green economy.
Why is it happening now? There is a requirement for all of California’s electric utilities to buy 33 percent of our power from renewable energy sources by 2020.
Not so, argues Professor Robert Pollin in his new book, Back to Full Employment. In fact, Pollin (who uses the standard definition of full employment as four percent or less unemployment) suggests that the ongoing jobs crisis offers the perfect opportunity for us to pursue what was once a cornerstone of national economic policy.
Pollin, co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, is no stranger to controversy. Beginning in 1996, when he was asked by living wage proponents in L.A. to conduct a study on how such a policy would affect the city, he has regularly incurred the wrath of free market diehards with his findings that modest mandated wage increases do not wreak havoc on business.
Assuming that she was inquiring for her grandchild, I told her that those interested in signing up for IBEW Local 18’s Utility Pre-Craft Trainee position must be at least 18 years old, have a valid California driver’s license and be proficient in math and English.
Just as I was about to continue with my tutorial about the academic and physical fitness requirements, the woman interrupted me with another question.
“Do you have any jobs that I can do?”
The wrinkled skin on her face, thin grey hair and her membership in the senior center I was speaking at suggested that she was at least in her mid-sixties. However, I would not be surprised if she was solidly in her seventies.
One central challenge to building a green economy is that for many, the inner workings of a key pillar of that economy — the construction industry — are a mystery. Understanding construction helps us move beyond simply creating green “jobs,” which could be temporary or even dangerous, to building a new green economic sector that generates permanent construction careers.
Construction is one of the largest sectors of the U.S. economy, with a dollar value approaching $800 billion and more than 7.2 million workers. It brings together people from all different walks of life. For community members that the economic downturn has hit the hardest — low-income workers, minorities, women, those returning from the military or from prison — construction offers a chance at a middle-class career.
A growing piece of the construction industry is retrofitting buildings to increase energy efficiency. Launching a project to retrofit a building,
The Board of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power took a huge step towards a greener, more efficient Los Angeles last Thursday. With a unanimous vote, the Board more than doubled LADWP’s investment in energy efficiency programs while also committing to sustaining that investment over the long term.
The Board set a goal of reducing energy consumption “at least 10%” with a soft target of 15% by 2020, pending the results of a new energy efficiency potential study. “These are significant increases and set LADWP on the path to be a leader in energy efficiency, allowing its customers to take advantage of this clean and cheap source of power,” NRDC’s Kristin Eberhard blogged the next day. “A robust energy efficiency budget can help create jobs and displace dirty coal in LADWP’s portfolio.” The vote came after over a year-and-a-half of organizing by a diverse coalition of environmentalists,