Oil-Industry Attacks on Green Jobs: Not Just a Paranoid Fantasy

Dave Weigel doesn't think much of green jobs. In this snarky-ish post about a green-jobs panel he attended at the Aspen Festival of Ideas, he writes that "the problem for green jobs was that they didn't seem to exist" and scoffs a bit at one speaker's assertion that green jobs are under attack:

Questions were of the "how-do-we-convince-everyone-else?" variety -- the green jobs case was just obvious. What the environmental movement needed was good stories of good jobs, to push back against the endless accusations that they were peddling a sham. They knew they weren't. What was the problem?

"Green jobs are absolutely under attack," said Ellis-Lamkins.

It's fair to point out that training for jobs in renewable- or clean-energy sectors has far outstripped the number of jobs created in those sectors. They're small; they're growing. But contra to Weigel's skepticism, green-job advocates are right to say that they're being attacked by oil and gas interests. An example: A few days back, the Washington Post published a story questioning the Obama administration's focus on clean tech. The story included this quote from Martin J. Durbin, a VP at the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group: “If you went and added up the number of jobs at these clean-tech companies he visited, in all honesty, I think you’re going to find a very modest number of jobs."

It's no suprise that he's happy to question green jobs numbers, given that the clean energy sector's goal is to undermine his business, as would a generally greener economy. What does Durbin think the president should be doing instead? Showing a little more love to the oil and gas industry, of course!

Green job advocates and the oil industry both have a stake in this argument, so there's reason to be skeptical both of the claim that green jobs only need a little more love to start booming and of the claim that they're just not there at all. But there's no question that the oil industry is nervous enough about the prospect of a successful clean energy sector to go after it.