Joan Fitzgerald

Joan Fitzgerald is professor and director of the Law, Policy and Society graduate program at Northeastern University. Her forthcoming book is Emerald Cities: Urban Sustainability and Economic Development.

Recent Articles

Losing Our Future

If we don't develop a national industrial policy for
clean-energy production, the strategies of other nations will displace American companies and jobs.

If you want to understand the consequences of America's failure to have a coherent, national industrial policy, look at one signature industry of the future -- renewable energy. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that by 2030, total global investment in wind and solar technologies could be worth as much as $3.6 trillion. Unfortunately, the U.S. is headed down a path that will render us consumers of renewable energy -- but not leading innovators or manufacturers. Though the U.S. pioneered these technologies, we already have an annual trade deficit of over $6 billion in renewable energy, while nations like China, Germany, and Japan are widening their lead. And India is about to enter the competition with massive investment. Other countries have deliberate policies to link innovation in renewable energy to manufacturing advantage -- -commercializing the products resulting from subsidized research and development, subsidizing education of skilled workers, and using...

The Green Challenge: An Introduction

The green economy will get an $80 billion boost from President Barack Obama's recovery package in the form of direct spending, loan guarantees, and tax incentives. A clean-energy economy offers not just savings in imported oil and reductions in carbon emissions necessary to save the planet but jobs and new industries -- and not just jobs, good jobs. The $80 billion is just a down payment on a conversion that will take far longer than two years. We will need trillions of dollars to maximize the potential of a clean-energy economy. And that outlay needs to be strategic. To succeed, we need to get beyond naive cheerleading and pursue tough questions. Will the promise be realized? In this special report, several articles explore the job potential of diverse green sectors such as renewable energy, public transportation, efficiency, and environmental cleanup. Another focus is on who will get the jobs and where they will be. My own article focuses on cities and states trying to develop...

Cities on the Front Lines

Conversion to solar and wind energy is an environmental necessity and an industrial opportunity. Success will require a concerted national policy.

(AP Photo/Sandy Huffaker)
In the Obama era, the federal government will play a much more active role promoting green economic development. In the meantime, cities and states have been the front lines of innovation. However, even the most creative of them are producing relatively few local jobs. A good case in point is solar energy. The problems boil down to three. First, while solar-energy installation can produce hundreds of thousands of jobs nationally, there are far fewer solar-energy jobs in design and installation than in production -- and most manufacturing jobs are already being outsourced globally. Second, despite a lot of creative local efforts, not every city can emerge as a center in the nation's solar-energy industry. Third, in the absence of federal standards subsidizing more rapid development of solar-energy technologies and mandates or incentives for their use, one state or city acting alone cannot bring solar conversion to scale. One can tell a similar story about wind power, conservation, the...

What Can Worker Training Do?

One out of every six full-time U.S. workers earns less than 125 percent of the poverty line -- under $18,865 a year for a family of three. And the share of low-wage workers is considerably higher in many of the sectors with the most job growth: retailing, hotel and food services, health care, and human services. Full-time workers in the bottom tenth of the wage distribution saw their weekly earnings decline by about 1 percent over the past six years, reversing the trend of rising wages that occurred from 1995 to 2000. For low-skilled youths, finding even a bad job has become more difficult. The problem is especially acute for young black men, with only 33 percent of black high-school dropouts able to secure any type of job, and only 25 percent working full time in 2005. Workforce development can be a promising strategy, but by itself it cannot compensate for inadequate schools, the serial disadvantages of poverty in early childhood, and a labor market that often leads only to more low...

Help Wanted -- Green

There are good jobs to be had in environmentally friendly development, and construction jobs are just the beginning. Thousands of jobs are in products that go into green buildings. The job potential in renewable energy production is even more impressive. The Renewable Energy Policy Project estimates that producing 10 percent of the nation's electricity with renewable sources would create 381,000 jobs producing the component parts of the systems. Already, renewable energy (biomass, solar, wind, geothermal) employ more than 115,000 people directly. These new jobs more than compensate for ongoing job loss in the coal and oil industries as clean forms of energy replace polluting ones. Renewable energy is labor-intensive. It generates more jobs in construction, manufacturing, and installation per megawatt of power than coal and natural gas. These jobs start with research and development. They produce an array of goods and services from renewable energy itself to products made from high-...

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