While the article “The Emerging Green Economy Myth” by Robert Johnson in the Public CEO is a polemic, it deserves a serious response.

Any opinion article that begins with a quote from Frédéric Bastiat, one of the fathers of libertarianism, gives a good indication of where the article is heading:  As little oversight as possible is always the “right” solution.

However, this article should be addressed on the facts.  It argues that the case that the “unfettered economy” (translation: suspension of clean energy, energy efficiency and air pollution standards) is the key to our recovery and it further states that the green economy is not based on real numbers or economic realities.  Perhaps we should ask some of the 160,000 workers in California who earn their living in the clean energy economy how they feel about such assertions.

There are three major fallacies in the article we would like to address:

1.    Johnson argues that the emerging green economy will not “save” California’s economy and he’s right.  But then again, we can’t think of any single industry that is the silver bullet answer to our economic challenges.   Plus, those who recognize the value of green jobs do not make this claim.  We do, however, point out that as overall jobs turned negative in 2007-2008, green jobs in California bucked that trend and continued to grow.  This is a fact that we should not ignore. 

2.     There are more than 160,000 green jobs in California in a diverse number of industries, across a wide range of occupations, in every region of the state.   In fact, there are nearly three times more jobs in green fields than there are in California’s entire biotech field.  Plus, green jobs have been growing faster than total employment in California.  These are real jobs with real paychecks– not myths, as Mr. Johnson calls them.    There is no basis for stating that these jobs are not important to California’s economy and to the people earning a living by holding those jobs.   

3.    Green jobs exist due to a mix of public and private funds and activities, incentives and policies—as do oil industry jobs and any number of other jobs in our state. While public policies and incentives can dramatically accelerate the creation of green jobs, the remarkable fact is that private companies and households are promoting energy efficiency on their own for a very simple reason–to save money.     Private investors are investing in new technologies because they see an opportunity to grow companies to meet new market demand.

The author clearly has a bias against public action and attempts to make the case that promoting green jobs can only take place as a result of government policy.  This is simply not true.  In fact, consumers and businesses as well as forward-looking energy standards are driving the movement toward green products and services in the marketplace.  Corporate America is setting aggressive energy conservation and carbon reduction goals and working towards those goals well in advance of any government mandates.

Growing green jobs in California with a smart, coordinated strategy is an investment that will pay dividends for years to come.  Not just job growth, but this investment yields resource efficiency gains that translate into competitive advantage.  China is already scrambling to make sure that they dominate this profitable market by investing 12.6 million dollars every hour in innovative energy technologies. 

In 2009, more than $5.6 billion in venture-capital investment went to clean-tech firms around the world.  The simple fact is, those billions will be invested and these jobs will be created somewhere and we’d prefer that California, not China or India, receive some of this economic boost.

Global demand for green products and services has nowhere to go but up, because the cost of limited resource fossil fuels also has nowhere to go but up.  Data outlined in Next 10’s landmark green jobs report, Many Shades of Green: Diversity and Distribution of California’s Green Jobs, shows that green sector businesses are growing in every single region, creating new opportunities for investment as well as jobs at many different skill levels with promising earnings potential. 

Take solar power, for example.  The latest data shows that there are more than 17,200 jobs in the solar field in California.  Green jobs naysayers certainly don’t want to acknowledge it, but Solar PV creates up to 80 times as many direct jobs as natural gas, and solar heating creates up to 8 times more direct jobs than conventional power plants.

The simple truth is there is no green economy myth, only the reality that green jobs do exist in California and should be celebrated at a time when every job counts.