Hopes for Obama's wave of green jobs fades to gray

President Barack Obama chats with workers
President Barack Obama chats with workers during a tour of the Cardinal Fastener & Specialty Company in 2009 in Bedford Heights, Ohio. Obama has put the government's weight and dollars behind a push for green jobs, but in the US heartland there are doubts his drive can revive manufacturing's glory days.

President Barack Obama has put the government's weight and dollars behind a push for green jobs, but in the US heartland there are doubts his drive can revive manufacturing's glory days.

Economic malaise is nothing new to northern Ohio, the recession-blighted region that was once a showcase for American manufacturing splendor.

Pummeled by decades of industrial decline and being shipped overseas, the region's biggest city, Cleveland, has seen its population of nearly a million in 1950 more than halve.

Cruelly dubbed the "mistake by the lake," the now half-empty city received another hammer blow during the recent downturn, which shuttered even more factories and sent unemployment soaring.

"We have seen pretty big declines in manufacturing-sector employment," said Guhan Venkatu, an economist at the of Cleveland, in describing a lost decade for the state.

"Some of the jobs will come back as we get deeper into the recovery, but most of them won't."

Yet throughout the latest crisis there has been one beam of hope: That the global race to develop could help resuscitate the region.

With Obama investing billions to help stimulate the green economy, local authorities in Ohio have wagered that a skills base honed over decades could be tapped in that quest.

Lisa Patt-McDaniel, director of the Ohio Department of Development, spends her days trying to help the young shoots of Ohio's green economy break through its ash-laden soil.

The effort is about "investing in future technology that will build on the manufacturing strengths that we already have in the state," she said.

As a result, glass factories that once pumped out products for the auto industry are now focused on making , while shop floors that produced gears now crank out parts for .

According to Patt-McDaniel, one green-tinged technology drive called the "third frontier" has created 9,000 jobs directly and about 45,000 secondary jobs in the eight years it has been in existence.

Still, despite this success, Obama's hopes of ushering in a tidal wave of green-collar jobs to rescue the languishing manufacturing sector are facing strong crosscurrents.

Computerized numerical lathe operator Don Marks (L) speaks with President Barack Obama
Computerized numerical lathe operator Don Marks (L) shows President Barack Obama how he makes large bolts used for bridge construction during a tour of Cardinal Fasteners & Specialty Company in 2009. Obama has put the government's weight and dollars behind a push for green jobs, but in the US heartland there are doubts his drive can revive manufacturing's glory days.

The Cleveland Fed's Venkatu argues the destruction of manufacturing jobs was caused by a range of factors, many of which apply equally to green manufacturing.

"It is not simply about the geographic pattern of production, of production moving offshore," said Venkatu.

"It would be very difficult to regain what has been lost in part because these are being driven by economic factors, increasing globalization and improvements in technology."

Between 2000 and 2005 technology advances meant output per manufacturing worker increased around 30 percent, he said.

That increased productivity means companies can employ fewer workers to do the same of work.

It is a trend also seen by John Colm, the head of WIRE-Net -- a nonprofit group that helps manufacturing firms in Cleveland.

"Regions would formerly hope to get a big auto plant because it would put a lot of people to work with only a high school education -- that equation just does not work anymore," he said.

Because Ohio has lost 400,000 jobs in the last four years and continues to lose jobs at a rate of around 17,000 per month, even Patt-McDaniel is careful not to overstate the impact , or the government, can have.

"I don't think that the third frontier is going to replace all the jobs that are no longer manufacturing jobs in the state," she said.

But that does not mean it is not worth trying.

"You are always creating jobs, and jobs are being let go. The game is trying to create more jobs than are being abolished. That is what we are aiming for."

Colm agreed: "If we still have the firms and they are organized and they are bringing wealth into a region, then that is healthy, that is good. It might be a smaller, leaner company in terms of employment, but that is the new reality."


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Nov 10, 2010
OBAMA...One Big Ass Mistake America

let's move on and get over it, his ideas were nothing but dreams while his actions have been nothing but nightmares.


You can't expect Obama to wave a wand and instantly clean up the mess that Bush left behind.

Nov 11, 2010
Those jobs aren't going to come back. And it isn't even because they've all been shipped to China (Mexico, or India). No, it's because it's cheaper to use fully automated manufacturing plants than it is to pay a labourer 60 bucks an hour... and all that money to work much less efficiently than a robot.

In fact, robotic manufacturing plants have come such a long way in the past decade that we're getting to the point that even the slave labour in China isn't cheaper than a robotic plant in Oklahoma. The company my dad works for opted to build a robotic plant in OK with 8 people working at it rather than a human powered manufacturing and assembly plant in China that would have required hundreds, if not thousands, of workers. Know why? Cause it saved them money. Humans are expensive, and robots are getting cheaper every day.

That's 8 jobs rather than hundreds. Those assembly line jobs aren't coming back folks. Ever.

Nov 11, 2010
This is why education is also very important. If we have high tech machinery making things for us. We need high tech mechanics and engineers to keep those machines in workable condition.

Putting part A into part B just won't cut it anymore.

Nov 11, 2010
OBAMA...One Big Ass Mistake America

let's move on and get over it, his ideas were nothing but dreams while his actions have been nothing but nightmares.


Even if that's what you said you'd do...
You can't expect Obama to wave a wand and instantly clean up the mess that Bush left behind.


Even if that's what you said you'd do...

Nov 11, 2010
Thank God for Obama and liberals. They are the only reason America is still afloat after the Republican debacle.

Nov 12, 2010
Look, we are trying to build a new industry. The seeds have been planted and roots are starting to take hold. it's going to take time. I guarantee in three years things will start to boom again and the biggest problem will be Obama saying that he did not have sex with somebody...

Nov 14, 2010
I guess if people don't want to work, but would rather sit and feel sorry for themselves there's nothing you can do.

Making paying jobs for them to do won't make them go back to work if they don't want to.

Nov 15, 2010
I imagine the reference to dollars included here is including the money spent to develop new “green technology”, right? In which case a great many “green jobs” to produce this “green technology” that was developed by American taxpayer money will not be for American workers anyway because every foreign country and most liberal lawmakers are calling for the transfer of “green technology” to other countries to help them cope with “global warming” err I meant “climate change”. There is no doubt if liberals can have their way then those jobs wouldn't last very long anyway because all the liberals would once they had their “green economy” that they would start complaining that we need new even more “environmentally friendly” technology developed at taxpayer expense to replace the old green technology that is killing “Mother Earth” that will lead to even more expensive energy bills so the process can repeat over again. Hope I got all the important buzz words of the nazi environuts.

Nov 15, 2010
In which case a great many "green jobs" to produce this "green technology" that was developed by American taxpayer money will not be for American workers anyway because every foreign country and most liberal lawmakers are calling for the transfer of "green technology" to other countries to help them cope with "global warming" err I meant "climate change".
Uhm, how would the export of technologies harm the domestic manufacturing base if we're the only ones providing the technologies? Did you fail out of basic economics? When you are the sole production agent, you have market advantage and must be pushed out by another group. If we spend the money before other countries jump on it, we'll reap massive rewards.

Nov 15, 2010
So if China and the U.N. Gets its way then this new “green technology” that was funded by American taxpayer money will be made available to foreign countries for them to manufacture and sell in competition with American companies employing American workers. Liberals complain about the mean nasty American companies exporting jobs abroad and no doubt some blame deserves to fall on those companies along with the politicians of both parties in America along with the Unions but in this instance it is Liberal lawmakers alone who are selling out the American taxpayer and worker by being agreeable to the transfer of new technology being funded by the American taxpayer. The American taxpayer is being suckered by liberals into funding the development of something to create jobs in foreign countries.

Nov 15, 2010
It is simple and I hope you can understand it, it is being demanded by other countries that American technology be transferred to them as part of a global environmental treaty so they can establish local industry to produce this new “green technology” and most liberal lawmakers have been in agreement with that and the disagreement has been to what degree.

Nov 15, 2010
It is simple and I hope you can understand it, it is being demanded by other countries that American technology be transferred to them as part of a global environmental treaty so they can establish local industry to produce this new "green technology" and most liberal lawmakers have been in agreement with that and the disagreement has been to what degree.
The money being spent by government is to keep the companies developing these technologies, manufacturing them within the US. These companies are making the technology no matter what.

You're effectively complaining about money being spent to create jobs in the US.

Nov 15, 2010
No you are wrong and I will go through the trouble of finding it for you but it is being demanded as part of a global treaty to limit green house gases that the technology to manufacture this new technology being discussed here be transferred to foreign countries along with assistance to help reduce the impact and to cope with the changing environment. So along with the big money grab on the American taxpayer in direct cash it is also being called for that the new technology being discussed here that is going to create so many jobs also be given to foreign countries so they can establish their own green industries to compete with American companies.

Nov 15, 2010
Here is just on link that I got from searching "transfer of green technology" in google.

http://www.rff.or...icy.aspx

The world is lining up to get as much as they can from the American taxpayer and if you have been following the debate just a little you would had known this but just must want to ignore it to keep from calling to much attention to it, and no doubt agree with such a transfer.

Nov 15, 2010
So did you actually read the link you posted or did you just add it since it showed up first on Google?

Read the spot where it talks about technology transfer. You've proved my statements correct.

Nov 15, 2010
One problem with "green" jobs like windmills and solar panels is that it's an artificial market. Without government subsidies, only a handful of people would be buying this stuff. Even with the subsidies, it's not a strong market. You can't build a product that nobody wants unless you have the government forcing/paying people to buy it. It doesn't make good sense that way either, because it smothers potentially better technologies under the force of false competition.

Nov 15, 2010
One problem with "green" jobs like windmills and solar panels is that it's an artificial market.
No, actually it isn't. The market existed before the government got on the bandwagon. Consumer solar has been around since the transmission tax was upped in 82. Same with wind and geothermal. The markets are simply more publicized now since they aren't focused on people with homes too remote for the grid.
It doesn't make good sense that way either, because it smothers potentially better technologies under the force of false competition.
Like what? There's nothing in development. Energy R&D is almost non-existant without government influence. Telco stagnated without the government getting involved, energy did the same. Utilities won't change as long as the subscriber base is locked in.

Nov 15, 2010
"Like what? There's nothing in development"

There are several different competing technologies for solar energy right now: many various types of photovoltaics, artificial photosynthisis, heated liquid salts, solar to hydrogen, algea farming, just to name a few. None of them are really ready for mass market yet, since they can't compete with fosile fuel, nuclear, hydroelectric or geothermal on a dollars per kWh basis. Pure market forces will allow the best to rise to the top. If the government subsidies could be set up to favor the most competitive ones in stead of being set up to favor the least competitive ones as it is now, then I wouldn't have a problem with it. They are giving the largest subsidies to the worst performers because that's the only way to get people to buy them. That doesn't encourage innovation or risk taking. It encourages the very stagnation you mentioned in your post.

Nov 16, 2010
Pure market forces will allow the best to rise to the top.
Depends on your definition of best.

Mine would be nuclear. The people who profit off energy would recommend coal and gas because it is cheaper to produce.

Market forces don't favor the best, they favor the least expensive.

Nov 16, 2010
Exactly right Skeptic_Heretic. Evolutionary forces (such as market forces) don't focus on creating the most advanced or efficient system, but rather on creating the system that can survive (and be created with) the least effort, and the least change from what currently exists. In economic terms, that means creating a system in the cheapest way possible, that can be maintained at the lowest cost, as fast as possible.

For energy production that's currently coal. That's why so much of the world runs on coal power.

Nov 16, 2010
There are many examples of subsidies holding back superior products or services. The US Post Office, Amtrack (and public transportation in general), public schools, US agricutlture, American automobiles, State-run liquor stores, and the list goes on.

Why would I try to create a startup company that makes a good but non-subsidized green technology, if I know that government subsidies for my competition provide them an unfair market advantage?

Nov 16, 2010
Why would I try to create a startup company that makes a good but non-subsidized green technology, if I know that government subsidies for my competition provide them an unfair market advantage?
If this was the prevailing thought processes of entrepreneurs, you and I wouldn't be able to have this conversation right now.

The subsidy competition aspect hasn't stopped innovation. It has only driven up taxation. ie: oil and coal subsidies are huge. If we removed those, these green technologies would take hold very rapidly, but the economy would crash out due to how deeply oil infiltrates every sector of commerce.

You have to pick your poison on this argument, neither truly serves your stance.

Nov 16, 2010
You are supporting my stance by your own words:

"If we removed those, these green technologies would take hold very rapidly"

So, the answer is to start another industry falsly supported by government subsidies? Let's make green energy as inefficient and unprofitable as we possibly can, so that it ends up being the new railroads?

I say let the government fund research and keep its fingers out of the market this time. Reward the people trying to innovate by funding the cost of innovation and research. That will create more jobs in the long run, and those jobs will actually create more wealth, not more taxes.

Nov 16, 2010
GS,

The big opponents to "green jobs" are political opponents. If you look at the majority of the house and senate, the bill killers come from oil and coal states (alaska, tenn, ky, etc.) The conversion process from fossil to renewable or even nuclear would be one large omelette, meaning several eggs, or in this case, job sectors, will be cracked. The difficulty in getting to green jobs is the fact you can't shotgun through the process without really screwing over the people who depend on coal and oil money. To them, "green jobs" are comming from California, Utah, and other states.

So far no one has been able to articulate a plan to go from one to the other without screwing these people over, and until someone can, I don't see the conversion happening, even though we desperately need it.
So, the answer is to start another industry falsly supported by government subsidies?
No, it's to make gasoline cost $23 a gallon like it should. But it will take time or we're all screwed

Nov 16, 2010
You and I are arguing for the same means, but we see completely different ends.

We both want to see an end to subsidies, but ending subsidies on all energy sectors will bankrupt the people of the country. So what's the fix? I'm not sure, it's a little out of my depth to comment on it with any authority, but I can speak to what I've done.

I moved into my house with an oil burner and 400 gal tank. Brutally expensive each winter, NH gets damn cold.

So I banked up about 20k and went with a geothermal system for my hot water. Works well, but the initial outlay was huge. Now I pay effectively nothing for hot water, which also heats my house. So that 20k was well invested. For electricity I went with solar. That was another 20k investment. I'm not entirely off the grid but I've cut my utilization down to about $5 a month and I'm not chasing around the wife and kids to shutoff lights and so forth. That's not really affordable to most. And that's the problem.

Nov 16, 2010
The danger in allowing market forces to determine what the best new green energy technology is is that something like what happened with keyboard design could occur. It was market forces made the QWERTY keyboard the dominant one because they were able to lock their customers in before more efficient keyboard designs could be discovered and implemented. QWERTY manufacturers spent a lot of money training typists in their keyboard layout, and by the time a better layout was discovered, very nearly all the typists were already trained on QWERTY and didn't want to retrain. In fact, the costs of retraining didn't justify adopting the new, more efficient keyboard layout. This shows that markets cannot be relied upon to force the adoption of optimal technologies when the innovation of new technologies is an historical phenomenon and costs are associated with any adoption.

Nov 16, 2010
The one time install costs for me were about 40k but I've made a good amount of that up in saving fuel costs and not paying PSNH. I don't really suffer if the grid goes down. I did miss out on the tax breaks because I was a very early adopter.

If we gave people the ability to afford this 40k outlay and had them pay it back through the tax system over a decade or two, we'd cut our consumption drastically, and we'd revitalize American manufacturing and engineering. The trade debt reduction wouldn't be too shabby either.

Going with a short term subsidy on green tech, while reducing the subsidy on oil and coal will really do a lot of good for the country.

But the temporary subsidy and taxes attached would have to be very well written and not subject to arbitrary modification. That's what I'd like to see. Subsidy to get the prices down, then incentizisation for adoption followed by removal of the subsidy and minor increase in taxation.

Nov 16, 2010
SH's anecdote illustrates the lock-in effect of early adoption perfectly. It takes a huge investment to adopt new technologies, but the money for existing tech, which is good enough for most people, though expensive, has already been spent. We've already spent the money adopting an oil and coal energy infrastructure, and we'd have to spend gobs more to change to solar/wind/nuclear/natural gas. And while it's true that in the long run, adopting new technologies will save us more money than we've lost, we'll still have to borrow to have the capital to make the switch right away, or save for years to afford it, and lose all the money you could have saved during those years.

Nov 16, 2010
It also seems to me that in terms of general economic policy philosophy, our current understanding has got it largely backwards. Huge subsidies and incentives are piled on the production side of the equation, in the hopes that they will hire more workers and lower costs, but instead they generally just increase their profit margins. Very little relatively is done to subsidize the consumption side, either in a targeted manner, such as tax credits or deductions for specific purchases, or in a general manner, such as through the EITC. I daresay consumers would be more likely to choose the "green" product that costs more now but saves them money in the long run if their ability to choose were subsidized. You don't need to subsidize production to bring prices down if consumers can afford to pay the higher prices because they're the ones being subsidized.

Nov 16, 2010
You don't need to subsidize production to bring prices down if consumers can afford to pay the higher prices because they're the ones being subsidized.
Exactly. Paying producers to produce doesn't help the consumers make the purchase, which leads to greater and greater subsidy in order to prevent the product from vanishing. That is bad government policy and right now, it is the prevailing school of thought and an overstep of government regulation.

If you subsidize the consumer, you have already given a reason for the producer to produce, and now to keep up with demand they have to innovate, and hire more people. That's where the government gets the taxes to pay for the subsidies. Gotta invest in the people, not the companies.

Nov 16, 2010
"Gotta invest in the people, not the companies."

I'll agree with that. I could make a comment about the difference between Bush and Obama in that regard, but you probably wouldn't like it.

Skeptic, we aren't on the same page here. I'm not talking about pidly little solar panels on top of homes. I'm talking about major energy consumers like office buildings, manufacturing, municipal water systems, agricultural irrigation, etc. I'm talking about renewable energy ON the grid, not off the grid. I'm talking about renewable energy on a comercial scale.

In regard to the above article, the dream of 'green jobs' is a myth. Explain to me how any of the green energy ideas will create American jobs. If it replaces an already existing job it doesn't count as job creation.

Nov 16, 2010
P.S. I rent, so I think my chances of my landlord buying solar panels to save me money on my electric bill are kinda slim. If you give a 100% reimbursment of installation and purchase price, then MAYBE my landlord would go to the trouble, but even then I doubt it. It would just be one more thing for him to maintain. Rentals will stay on the grid for the forseeable future, so you have to make the grid green, not try to get rid of the grid.

Nov 16, 2010
For one thing, it creates jobs in the transition. It takes people to build the new infrastructure while we're still relying on the old one. And it's the knowledge and ability of putting that new infrastructure in place that, if we spend the money to do it here first, that will make those jobs American. The idea is to find our global market niche as transition experts from oil/coal/gas to renewable, less polluting energy sources.

Nov 16, 2010
Skeptic, we aren't on the same page here. I'm not talking about pidly little solar panels on top of homes. I'm talking about major energy consumers like office buildings, manufacturing, municipal water systems, agricultural irrigation, etc. I'm talking about renewable energy ON the grid, not off the grid. I'm talking about renewable energy on a comercial scale.


But that's exactly what SH is talking about when he says this,
The conversion process from fossil to renewable or even nuclear would be one large omelette, meaning several eggs, or in this case, job sectors, will be cracked. The difficulty in getting to green jobs is the fact you can't shotgun through the process without really screwing over the people who depend on coal and oil money.
Subsidies are required to unwind the costs of early adoption of oil and coal without causing too much pain to those who now rely on those technologies.

Nov 16, 2010
Slightly off topic, but your keyboard analogy may not have been the best analogy to go with. Dvorak creates less hand strain than QWERTY, but the practical words/min that most people can pull out of a Dvorak (after training, of course) are approximately the same as a QWERTY keyboard. The myth about Dvorak keyboards being 'faster' has been debunked on numerous occasions.

Nov 17, 2010
I'll agree with that. I could make a comment about the difference between Bush and Obama in that regard, but you probably wouldn't like it.
Why not? So far they've both been state capitalists. They both disgust me with their handling of the energy sector.

Skeptic, we aren't on the same page here. I'm not talking about pidly little solar panels on top of homes. I'm talking about major energy consumers like office buildings, manufacturing, municipal water systems, agricultural irrigation, etc.
So you want to talk scale? The conversation doesn't change, simply the timeline for conversion.
I'm talking about renewable energy ON the grid, not off the grid. I'm talking about renewable energy on a comercial scale.
The difference here is the fact that the energy magnates already own the grid. PSNH won't let me start a solar company and attach it to their grid. I'd have to run all new lines, which would take probably a century to get done for a single state. It's monopoly

Nov 17, 2010
And this monopoly is what is keeping the subsidies in place, refusing to change, and preventing regulation forcing them to change.

Effectively you're arguing in MaBell's corner, except she's MaCoal/Oil now.

We had to demolish the phone companies in the 80's to even start competition on digital communication. Verizon has re-established dominance and you can already see our infrastructure going to shit when compared to the rest of the world in telecommunications.

The lines need to be taken away from the grid companies or the regulations allowing free use need to be installed. Otherwise the change won't happen until there's no more coal, and no more oil, or they become so expensive that they're unusable. Do you disagree?

Nov 17, 2010
Why does everyone assume the US is the sole nation searching for clean energy.The countries afflicted by terrible shortages of clean air and clean power sources will step forward just like Denmark did in the past decade. The entire Chinese technological base is being subsidized to avoid reliance on sources from the former USSR.The latest crisis in China over the 13 traffic jam was caused by a single coal mine supply problem.And if China does nothing,the Indians,and Africans are poised to bring capital to both these regions.Australia's need for more desal plants will stimulate great strides in energy production.

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