Don't Make a Fashion Statement With Jobs

May 22, 2007

Don't Make a Fashion Statement With Jobs

Sensenbrenner: There’s always room in the economy for more jobs and better jobs, whether they are blue collar, white collar – or what seems to be the latest in workforce fashion – green collar.

Washington, D.C., May 22 - U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., ranking Republican on the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, made the following statement during today’s hearing titled, “Economic Impacts of Global Warming: Green Collar Jobs:”

“Today’s hearing is about jobs. Specifically, we’re going to talk today about creating new jobs, a topic that Republicans know something about. Since Congress passed tax relief in August 2003, the economy has added 7.8 million jobs.

“I agree that there’s always room in the economy for more jobs and better jobs, whether they are blue collar, white collar – or what seems to be the latest in workforce fashion – green collar.

“What we are likely to see today is that Republicans and Democrats agree on the goal of job creation, but take different paths to reach that goal. I believe the free market forces of the private sector offer the best road to job creation. I think relying on the government to create jobs is a dead end.

“One question I would like to see answered today is exactly what a ‘green-collar’ job is. One of our witnesses today, Mr. Van Jones, wrote in Yes! magazine that a ‘green-collar’ job can include construction work on a ‘green’ building and even bicycle repair.

“Mr. Jones is devoted to creating more jobs and economic opportunities, and for that he is to be commended. He’s also right to assert that some environmental projects will help create new jobs.

“But I do think it’s important that we distinguish between the new jobs created to develop advanced technology and jobs that play a supporting role to ‘green’ technology. The reason this is an important distinction is because part of today’s focus is on government job training programs.

“Already, the federal government spends $5.3 billion dollars annually on job training.  States together spend $500 to $ 700 million each year.  But the business community spends up to $56 billion per year - $56 billion!  I’m worried that by creating big government programs for so-called ‘green-collar’ job training, what we would really be doing is simply duplicating job training programs that already exist. It seems to me that many of the ‘green-collar’ jobs require the same ‘blue-collar’ skill sets that are already addressed by some job training programs.

“Is construction of a green building that fundamentally different from constructing a traditional building? Is installing a solar panel fundamentally different than installing a satellite dish? I have serious questions about what type of job training will really be needed for so-called ‘green-collar’ jobs.  As Mr. Bob Thelen says in his prepared testimony: ‘With individuals who are in transition, it is tempting to encourage them to train for the next “hot job” --- whether that is in health careers, informational technology or in this case green jobs.’

“I think we need to be cautious about creating job training programs for jobs that don’t yet exist. Thanks to the private sector, these jobs may be just around the corner, but we shouldn’t rush to train a labor force for jobs that don’t yet exist and may not require special training, anyway.

“I do think there are ways to promote jobs that are directly related to ‘green’ technology. In fact, I joined 388 of my colleagues in the House this April to approve a bill that I believe would help promote more ‘green’ jobs. It’s called the 10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds Science and Math Scholarship Act, and it will create a scholarship program to encourage college students to become math and science teachers.  These teachers will help to train a highly skilled workforce for the future.

“I firmly believe that we must look to advanced technology in order to address global warming issues. And it seems I’m not the only one who believes technology will play a big role in climate change policy. Promoting advanced technology and hybrid cars is the number one point in the Apollo Alliance’s plan for good jobs and energy independence. I am happy that Mr. Jerome Ringo, the Apollo Alliance’s president, is here with us and I look forward to hearing what types of advanced technology have captured his interest.

“In March, Bank of America announced a $20 billion program that will finance ‘green’ programs, including mortgages on green buildings. Not to be outdone, Citigroup announced in May a $50 billion, 10-year program devoted to funding ‘green’ projects. That’s $70 billion for green projects without a single dollar coming from taxpayers. Already many companies are talking about green initiatives, including Wal-Mart, which recently announced it would place solar panels on at least 22 of their stores. If these companies need specially-trained employees, they certainly have the wherewithal to fund it on their own.

“‘Green collar’ jobs will be good for the economy, just like white and blue collar jobs. I think the private sector is already on the path towards putting people to work in ‘green collar’ jobs, but I’m worried that more big government programs will only create a roadblock.”

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Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming - Republicans
H2-344 Ford House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-0110 | Fax: (202) 225-0095

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