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Report: 'Green' jobs outpacing traditional ones

The "green" energy and transportation sector is emerging as a vital part of the US economy, though still small compared with oil and gas, says a new study.

By Ron SchererStaff writer / June 10, 2009

In this May 6 file photo, an attendee walks past a row of wind turbine replicas at the Windpower 2009 Conference & Exhibition in Chicago.

M. Spencer Green/AP/File

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“Green jobs” are growing nearly 2-1/2 times as fast as traditional jobs, finds a new study by Pew Charitable Trusts. The study, released Wednesday by Pew as the first ever count of such jobs in all 50 states, concludes that the clean energy economy, while still in its infancy, “is a vital component of America’s new economic landscape.”

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The Pew study looked at jobs created between 1998 and 2007. Since then the overall job market, especially in traditional manufacturing, has shrunk while the investment in wind farms, solar projects, and pollution mitigation has fared better.

Moreover, the growth of green jobs is an important part of President Obama’s jobs agenda, with billions of dollars allocated for green energy and transportation programs in the $787 billion economic stimulus package.

“The clean energy economy is poised for explosive growth,” said Lori Grange, interim director of the Pew Center on the States in a statement. “These jobs are driving economic growth and environmental sustainability at a time when America needs both.”

However, despite the faster growth rate, the number of green jobs remains much smaller than those in the fossil-fuel sector.

According to the Pew study, by 2007, more than 68,200 green businesses in all fifty states and the District of Columbia generated 770,000 jobs. By way of comparison, utilities, coal mining, and the oil and gas industry employed 1.27 million workers in 2007.

The oil and gas industry says it has an even larger employment footprint. “The industry itself is about 1.8 million including all aspects from the well head to the service station,” says John Felmy, chief economist for the American Petroleum Institute in Washington. “But, according to Price Waterhouse [an accounting firm], if you add the indirect workforce you add another 4 million people so the total is close to 6 million.”

The green sector will receive about $85 billion in direct spending and tax incentives from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the $787 billion economic stimulus package, according to Pew. In addition, Pew finds 23 states have regional initiatives to limit power plant emissions and 46 states offer some form of tax inducement to encourage individuals and corporations to use renewable resources.

The highest number of green jobs is in California with 125,390 jobs. The lowest is in Wyoming with 1,419. The Pew study found the national average for jobs for each state is about 15,000.