Monday, August 30, 2010

Green jobs will go where all jobs go

The factories I saw in China were closer to being green than anything I've heard about in America. The workers lived within walking distance of their jobs and ate communal meals. Sunlight was used in place of electric lights, fans instead of air conditioning. Nothing was purchased unless it was absolutely necessary, there weren't even chairs, most people stood while they did their jobs. Cleaning was avoided, the architecture was simple and reusable.

If the factories I saw were hooked up to nuclear power plants (the Chinese are building them) and the plastics were replaced with something biodegradable or recycled (which will happen naturally as prices for those items come down) the factories would be greener than anything possible in America.

So how can we compete?

Right now our green jobs only exist because we subsidize them with money the government borrows. They aren't profitable. We don't even know if the technologies we've chosen to invest in will be the ones favored in the future. Meanwhile, the Chinese have an economy that can turn a profit, create jobs, and produce things people are willing to buy. We don't have that experience. If the green economy ever materializes, the Chinese will have no problem taking every job we've created away. They can do it cheaper and greener. They only have to take the jobs they already have and make them green, while we haven't even figured out how to make jobs, let alone green ones.

While we've borrowed money hoping to be prepared for tomorrow, the Chinese have been making money dealing with today's world, and developing the flexibility to deal with tomorrow's. America's "green jobs" are jobs for a future that may or may not come, and even if it does, probably wont want them.

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