As a former Colorado resident I was aware of the growing wind industry resources in the area. North of Denver near an old regional airport there is a lot of land that is “underdeveloped” and some of it is being used for testing wind turbines. Which is a pretty tricky business because of the massive scale of current wind turbines. Propeller blades of gargantuan proportions, huge bearing systems, wind tunnel testing. It’s impressive.
And as I recently reported in this blog site, the American Solar Energy Association, which happens to be headquartered in Boulder Colorado, did a widely quoted report which claims (among other things) that the State of Colorado increased employment by 10,000 jobs in the Green Energy sector. It’s not coincidence that the report focused in some detail on the activity in Colorado, since, being in Boulder, there is direct access to information Denver also has a major National Renewable Energy Laboratory campus where thousands of people are employed, many of whom work on solar , wind and many green related technologies. So there is a lot of local activity that ASEA is aware of directly.
The State of Colorado had mandated the use of wind and solar power in the energy mix of the local power utility. And there is a fairly significant wind farm being built in Northern Colorado. So for several years, while the wind farm is under construction, there will be quite a few hundred workers involved in that construction project. But like all projects, it will be completed in a couple of years and those jobs will have to move on.
But the 10,000 jobs number included government workers hired by NREL and temporary construction jobs on the wind farm. The actual private sector estimate is less than half of the 10,000. Worse is that the private sector estimate includes guys who put insulation into your attic, and a percentage of all appliance industry workers on the basis that some fraction of that labor is focused on energy efficiency. So this gets to be a very difficult number to pin down.
The bigger problem is putting the green jobs, however many, in proper context. The State of Colorado is currently trying to help 120,000 unemployed people with unemployment assistance. And Colorado is in relatively good shape compared to other parts of the country which are much harder hit. Based on some recent editorial commentary, the national unemployment numbers may be under reported because of manipulation of the reporting basis, and that government claims about the impact of green energy on the economy are similarly exaggerated. And that is bad news all around.
But what I find shocking in the Colorado situation is that two years ago several major Oil & Gas companies were “shovel ready” to mine and refine shale oil resources in remote parts of the state which would have had a significant impact leading to thousands of new jobs. But Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (D), a Colorado Senator and resident, decided that permitting shale oil recovery would be inconsistent with the goals of land management. Maybe it wasn’t “green” enough.
But right now, we could sure use the business.