January 29, 2009 in Green Breaking News, Region

Gregoire outlines green-jobs plan

By The Spokesman-Review
 

More than 47,000 Washington workers have “green jobs,” far more than estimated and twice the goal set by state officials for 2020.

But Gov. Chris Gregoire said Thursday that Washington can go much farther, and used the findings to rally support for Green Jobs and Climate Action legislation that would dedicate $455 million to transportation and housing projects that would reduce energy use and foster clean-energy technologies.

The measure would support 2,900 jobs in 2010 and 2011, she said.

Gregoire also used a news conference at South Puget Sound Community College’s new, energy-efficient Natural Sciences Building to promote building codes that would reduce energy use by 30 percent.

She said she also wants a tax exemption for plug-in vehicles, a private-sector partnership to identify possible initiatives for the future, and a cap-and-trade system for limiting greenhouse gas emissions like one being discussed by the Obama administration.

“Let us be an example to them as to how to do it right,” she said.

The $16 billion spent in Washington on imported oil and coal represents a disinvestment in the state that must by reversed, Gregoire said.

The green jobs number emerged from a survey commissioned by the 2008 Washington Legislature that was much more comprehensive than any undertaken before. Prepared by Washington State University Senior Research Associate Alan Hardcastle, the survey covered employment related to energy efficiency, renewable energy, and preventing, reducing or cleaning up pollution.

More than half the jobs were in construction, architecture and engineering dedicated to increasing energy efficiency. Combating pollution generated about 40 percent of the total – much of it attributed to agriculture – and renewable energy just 4 percent.

And though the total exceeded expectations, green jobs constitute less than 2 percent of all employment in Washington, the study found.

Only modest growth is projected, but with federal and state policy focused on green industry the pace will probably accelerate, said Greg Weeks, labor market and economic analysis director for the Employment Security Department.

Hardcastle said how far Washington can go will depend in part on the investment the state makes in conservation and other energy-related efforts.

The survey estimated that Spokane County has 1,500 green jobs, and nine other Eastern Washington counties only 520. But Pullman-based Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, which makes equipment that improves the efficiency of the electric transmission grid, alone employs 1,400.

Contact Bert Caldwell at bertc@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5450.


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