There's no denying the allure of "green jobs" as a concept. Who could object to renewable energy sources with minimal environmental impact? How practical such jobs are now and how soon they will offer widespread opportunity for employment are questions that need to be asked and answered, however. Any anticipated benefit from green jobs should be measured against the enormous economic impact of careers in our existing energy industry.
In Illinois alone, energy is a $79 billion-a-year industry, directly employing more than 40,000 full- and part-time workers. Bear in mind that these are jobs with above-average wages. The energy industry indirectly supports more than 100,000 additional positions – jobs in retail, health care, hospitality, technology, construction, transportation, finance, etc. The energy industry in Illinois generates $2.9 billion in federal taxes annually and $2.3 billion annually in state and local taxes.
While we would certainly welcome whatever opportunity green jobs might provide, we ought not to lose sight of the wealth and other benefits that our existing energy industry has provided for decades. Ideally, we would want to embrace both the old and the new, not favoring one over the other but making the most of the two together.
There's no rational reason not to encourage development of a wide variety of energy resources – from solar, wind, water, and biomass to coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear. It's hard to act rationally, however, when our representatives in Washington – and the bureaucrats they delegate their power to -- insist on playing favorites with energy sources, offering incentives for developing some and disincentives for developing others. Our steady access to the most affordable and efficient energy for any given purpose is impeded by arbitrarily strict national standards for air and water quality, capricious bans on drilling and mining, and excessive taxation and regulation of disfavored fuels.
Perhaps our newly elected Congress will see fit to abandon these policies that harm our state economies while doing nothing to increase the energy security of our nation.
Surely, they can recognize the benefit of an abundant and affordable supply of energy from a variety of sources – particularly in a time of economic uncertainty.
There is never a good time – or a good reason -- to stifle energy development and delay economic recovery, but now is an especially bad time. With so many of our fellow Illinoisans out of work or struggling to make ends meet, there is no excuse for maintaining policies that increase the burdens on energy producers, drive up the costs for business people, and discourage job creation.
By all means, bring on the green jobs, but let's keep the 40,000 ones we already have in the existing energy industry and the $79 billion it contributes annually to our state's economy. Let's do everything we can to increase employment in this well-established industry by rolling back excessive taxes and onerous regulations.
Let's remove the blinders from our eyes and stop hobbling ourselves with self-imposed shortages. There is energy galore right here in the United States just waiting to be developed. Let's develop all of it – coal, oil, natural gas, renewables, etc. Let's drill, let's mine, let's tap every energy source we can find.
Imagine all the jobs we could create just in the energy industry if we took a positive rather than a negative attitude towards it! Imagine the ripple effect on jobs in other fields as energy became more abundant and affordable!
What are we waiting for?