Some people think the “green revolution” is going to be the next wave of innovation similar to what has happened with the Web. Prior waves of innovation before the popularity of the Web – from integrated computer circuits to the Internet – created investment opportunities and drove our economic prosperity. One could argue that we are moving along a similar path with waves of innovation in green industries.
The beginning of the green movement might be tied to improvements in energy efficiency in the 1980s and 1990s and even earlier environmental policies to reduce emissions from industries such as automotive and chemical manufacturing.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program made it more evident to consumers how they could save money on energy bills by buying new appliances while also conserving energy.
More recently, innovation in clean energy seems to be taking off with new processes such as coal gasification and a renewed attention on nuclear power.
The emphasis of President Obama’s administration on the environment may promote another wave of innovation in the green revolution. New policies through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act have committed at least $50 billion in energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives that are expected to create an estimated 500,000 new jobs within those sectors.
But here’s where it gets tough for someone who is trying to measure the impact of this industry on the economy.
How do you define green industries?
The Pew Charitable Trusts released a study earlier this month that identified 74 detailed sectors that fall under the definition of green industries. Those sectors employed 758,721 people in the nation in 2006. Under the study’s definition, Virginia ranked 14th in the U.S. with 16,906 green jobs. Several other studies define green industries. None use the same definition.
For instance, IHS Global Insight, an economic and financial consultant firm, identified 73 detailed industries that make up green industries. A little less than half the industries are the same as those suggested by the Pew study. Even so, Global Insight’s measure of green jobs is close to the Pew total: 751,051 in 2006. Global Insight doesn’t provide a total of green jobs in every state but identifies the Washington metropolitan area as having 24,287 green jobs, the second behind the New York metro area with 25,021 green jobs in 2006.
Although there is no standard definition for a green job, most of the studies agree that the green sector will grow much faster than the overall economy during the next few decades. Based on the innovation we’ve seen from mainframes to the Web, it is unfathomable to define the types of green products and services that will become commonplace in the economy two decades from now.
Reprinted with permission from the Richmond Times-Dispatch