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Friday, February 5, 2010

Green Careers

From solar panels to wind turbines...green careers are here.

By Lawrence Ross

Green jobs used to be a topic that only intrigued the Berkeley types eating granola bars.

Not anymore.

Today, economists trumpet the greening of the economy as a savior of American industry, as scientists and engineers are creating dynamic new ways to go green.

That all sounds well and good, but what exactly is a green job?

It has to pay decent wages and benefits that can support a family. It has to be part of a real career path, with upward mobility, said Phil Angelides, chair of the Apollo Alliance, a coalition of business, labor, and environmental groups championing green employment. "And it needs to reduce waste and pollution and benefit the environment."

Green jobs can range from installing solar panels and wind turbines, to hybrid car production and green facilities management, not to mention the greening of existing occupations.

Did you know that U.S. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu said that if the United States painted 63 percent of the roofs white, the energy savings would be like taking every car off the road for 10 years?

Residential and commercial construction is another big area that will see job growth.

The Center for American Progress estimates that if the country commits to retrofitting 40 percent of all commercial and residential buildings (approximately 50 million buildings) in ten years, 625,000 permanent jobs will be created.

Domestically, the green collar job movement is benefiting from the fact that the U.S. renewable energy industry was growing three times faster than the economy overall prior to the recession's onset at the end of 2007, according to a study for the Energy Department by Management Information Services Inc. (MISI) of Oakton, Va.

That kind of aggressive growth was echoed by a new study from the Pew Charitable Trust, which says the number of green jobs in the United States grew 9.1 percent between 1998 and 2007, about two-and-a-half times faster than job creation in the economy as a whole.

Here are some of the fastest growing green jobs:

Farmer

Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food, says there's a need for tens of millions of small farmers who use local, organic, and green methods, rather than the dangerous fertilizers and pesticides used by many corporate farms. And according to The New York Times, Jessica Durham, a partner with D&L Urban Farms, makes $35 per hour tending small urban farms for others.

Forester

With the move from cutting and culling forests to growing higher-value timber for medicine and fruit, forests are a major area for green jobs. The U.S. Forest Service recently received $1.15 billion from the federal government for jobs.

Solar Panel Installer

A study by the Apollo Alliance recommends an $89.9 billion investment in green buildings which would create 827,260 jobs - an initiative supported by the Obama stimulus package. According to The Wall Street Journal, a solar panel installer can make between $15 and $30 per hour.

Wind Turbine Fabricators

According to the American Wind Energy Association, the industry currently employs some 50,000 Americans and added another 10,000 new jobs in 2007. This is an area that Fast Company says is a great place for auto workers to repurpose their skills.

HVAC

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) is a great source for green jobs, because for many businesses and governments, it's a field where retrofitting to more green, energy efficient units creates instant savings. An HVAC tech can expect to make about $38,360 per year, according to the Department of Energy.

The bottom line: Going green no longer is outside the mainstream. It is the mainstream. And with the right training, you'll find that saving the environment is a good way to make a living.

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