Are the Green Jobs All in China?
Three articles in this week’s Washington Post and New York Times examine the question of whether the shift to clean energy will really create more U.S. jobs or just hasten the shift of jobs to China. It seems like there is strong evidence for the latter case.
Today’s New York Times covers the news that the United Steelworkers union plans to file a case with the Obama Administration accusing China of violating free trade rules in its subsidies for exports of clean energy equipment. Here’s a taste:
“The union says the violations have helped Chinese companies expand their share of the world market for wind turbines, solar panels, nuclear power plants and other clean energy equipment, at the expense of jobs in the United States and elsewhere. The filing asks the Obama administration to begin formal proceedings at the W.T.O. in Geneva to force China to repeal the subsidies.
“Unless China’s policies are urgently addressed, the U.S. may never get a fair shot at making the green technologies of the future,” the filing says.”
Yesterday’s Washington Post ran a business opinion column by Steven Pearlstein that looks at the structural dilemmas behind high unemployment in the U.S. and hits on a similar trade theme:
"The reason there were 8 million additional jobs back in 2007 is that demand for goods and services was artificially - and unsustainably - inflated by cheap, plentiful credit.
"Bringing down our trade deficit “either by producing more of what we consume (fewer imports) or more of what other countries consume (more exports) - represents the path toward sustainable, long-term job creation.
"The problem with that strategy is that for the past two decades we have allowed our industrial and technological base to deteriorate as talent and capital were grossly misallocated toward other sectors of the economy, even as other countries were able to attract the investment, the technology and the know-how to serve the U.S. and global markets.”
AND, he writes, “our companies are disadvantaged by an overvalued currency or unfair trading practices.”
Also in yesterday’s Post, a must-read example of a factory shut-down that will result in 400 lost jobs in spite of U.S. clean technology innovation. Where the author writes “lighting industry” one could easily substitute “solar industry” or “battery industry.”
“During the recession, political and business leaders have held out the promise that American advances, particularly in green technology, might stem the decades-long decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs. But as the lighting industry shows, even when the government pushes companies toward environmental innovations and Americans come up with them, the manufacture of the next generation technology can still end up overseas.