EarthTalk: What kind of job opportunities might
be opened up by the new federal emphasis on green projects?
-- Dick Wetzler, St. Paul, MN
economists agree that it makes good sense to steer
away from finite foreign oil toward homegrown renewable
energy. Pictured: The Biglow Canyon Wind Farm under
construction in Sherman County, Oregon.
© Dave Worth, courtesy Flickr
it’s a U.S. industry that has the potential to be
cleaner and greener, chances are the Obama administration
has already set aside some stimulus money for it. In February
2009, the new president signed the $787 billion American
Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law. Besides creating
jobs, the bill promises to spur American companies to greener
heights through investments totaling over $75 billion.
to Environment America, a federation of state-based environmental
advocacy groups, the stimulus package includes $32.8 billion
for clean energy projects, $26.86 billion for energy efficiency
initiatives and $18.95 billion for green transportation.
Some of the key green features of the bill include accelerating
the deployment of “smart grid” technology (systems
of routing power in ways that optimize energy-efficiency),
providing energy efficiency funds for schools, offering
support for governors and mayors to beef up energy efficiency
in private homes and public buildings, and establishing
a new loan guarantee program to help renewable energy producers
survive in down economic times.
the private capital and credit so tight due to the recession,
this influx of federal support is vital to help the still
fledgling green energy and transportation sectors stay afloat.
And most economists agree that it makes good sense to steer
away from finite foreign oil toward homegrown renewable
energy. Obama has promised the creation of some 500,000
jobs in the nation’s burgeoning clean energy sector
central facts here are irrefutable: Spending the same amount
of money on building a clean energy economy will create
three times more jobs within the U.S. than would spending
on our existing fossil fuel infrastructure,” writes
University of Massachusetts economist Robert Pollin in The
Nation. “The transformation to a clean energy economy
can therefore serve as a major long-term engine of job creation.”
Wind turbine engineers, insulation installers, recycling
sorters and photovoltaic cell salespeople—along with
the businesspersons behind them—can all look forward
to bright and potentially lucrative futures.
view is shared by the Solar Energy Industries Association,
which predicts that the stimulus will help create some 119,000
jobs in the American solar sector alone before the end of
2010. Employers from solar cell manufacturers to green building
materials retailers to wind farm maintenance firms to recycling
haulers to energy auditors will likewise be looking to swell
their ranks of employees with relevant skills.
federal government itself is also in on the recovery effort
beyond doling out the money. According to the official Recovery
Act website, the General Services Administration’s
Public Building Service will invest $5.55 billion in federal
building projects, “including $4.5 billion to transform
federal facilities into exemplary high-performance green
buildings, $750 million to renovate and construct new federal
offices and courthouses, and $300 million to construct and
renovate border stations.” About $1 billion worth
of projects will be undertaken—a boon for everyone
in the building industry, including construction workers,
electricians, plumbers, air conditioning mechanics, carpenters,
architects and engineers.
Recovery and Reinvestment Act; Environment
Energy Industries Association.
EarthTalk: What effects do fertilizers, pesticides
and herbicides used on residential lawns or on farms have
on nearby water bodies like rivers, streams—or even
the ocean for those of us who live near the shore?
-- Linda Reddington, Manahawkin, NJ
agricultural chemicals became commonplace beginning
with the so-called "Green Revolution" in
the second half of the 20th century, but their benefits
haven't come without environmental costs -–
namely the wholesale pollution of most of our streams,
rivers, ponds, lakes and even coastal areas, as these
synthetic chemicals run-off into the nearby waterways.
© Roger Smith, courtesy Flickr
With the advent
of the so-called Green Revolution in the second half of
the 20th century—when farmers began to use technological
advances to boost yields—synthetic fertilizers, pesticides
and herbicides became commonplace around the world not only
on farms, but in backyard gardens and on front lawns as
many of which were developed in the lab and are petroleum-based,
have allowed farmers and gardeners of every stripe to exercise
greater control over the plants they want to grow by enriching
the immediate environment and warding off pests. But such
benefits haven’t come without environmental costs—namely
the wholesale pollution of most of our streams, rivers,
ponds, lakes and even coastal areas, as these synthetic
chemicals run-off into the nearby waterways.
When the excess
nutrients from all the fertilizer we use runs off into our
waterways, they cause algae blooms sometimes big enough
to make waterways impassable. When the algae die, they sink
to the bottom and decompose in a process that removes oxygen
from the water. Fish and other aquatic species can’t
survive in these so-called “dead zones” and
so they die or move on to greener underwater pastures.
A related issue
is the poisoning of aquatic life. According to the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Americans alone churn
through 75 million pounds of pesticides each year to keep
the bugs off their peapods and petunias. When those chemicals
get into waterways, fish ingest them and become diseased.
Humans who eat diseased fish can themselves become ill,
completing the circle wrought by pollution.
A 2007 study
of pollution in rivers around Portland, Oregon found that
wild salmon there are swimming around with dozens of synthetic
chemicals in their systems. Another recent study from Indiana
found that a variety of corn genetically engineered to produce
the insecticide Bt is having toxic effects on non-target
aquatic insects, including caddis flies, a major food source
for fish and frogs.
of course, is to go organic, both at home and on the farm.
According to the Organic Trade Association, organic farmers
and gardeners use composted manure and other natural materials,
as well as crop rotation, to help improve soil fertility,
rather than synthetic fertilizers that can result in an
overabundance of nutrients. As a result, these practices
protect ground water supplies and avoid runoff of chemicals
that can cause dead zones and poisoned aquatic life.
There is now
a large variety of organic fertilizer available commercially,
as well as many ways to keep pests at bay without resorting
to harsh synthetic chemicals. A wealth of information on
growing greener can be found online: Check out OrganicGardeningGuru.com
and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Alternative
Farming System Information Center, for starters. Those interested
in face-to-face advice should consult with a master gardener
at a local nursery that specializes in organic gardening.
Gardening Guru; USDA’s
Alternative Farming System Information Center.
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