The Corner

When 2 Percent Is Not 2 Percent

Veronique: Your post reminds me I’ve been meaning to make a point that sometimes gets lost in all this green jobs talk. That Brookings Report says that “only” 2 percent of jobs are green jobs. Well, 2 percent is actually a really big number when you think about it. Two percent of all American jobs?

The problem is that most of the jobs we think of as green jobs make up only a fraction of that 2 percent. From a Time write up of the Brookings report:

But one of the most unexpected conclusions from the report is that those red-hot clean-tech jobs—in solar or wind or cellulosic biofuels—are actually a relatively small part of the overall clean economy. The most common green job? Try waste management and treatment, which employs nearly 400,000 workers—14% of all green jobs. And the single biggest employer in the clean economy isn’t a sexy startup like First Solar, or even a giant like GE’s wind division. It’s the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, followed by the waste management and water treatment operations of the city of Los Angeles and New York. And waste management is followed by mass transit, which employs about 350,000 Americans. There are your most common clean workers: the garbage man and the bus driver. 

If America exploited its conventional energy sources, Americans would still be creating “green jobs” every time they went to the bathroom.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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