Green jobs debate is not black and white

    In many ways it’s a typical political debate. Proponents of legislation implementing Gov. Jim Doyle’s global warming agenda tout the economic development potential of these new state environmental mandates to create so-called "Green Jobs."

    Other individuals and organizations have raised questions over the details and costs of the state global warming legislation and expressed concern that this bill will drive jobs out of Wisconsin. The media has understandably placed folks in tidy categories of being “for” or “against” global warming or green jobs.

    These broad black and white characterizations of parties debating this multi-faceted piece of public policy are unfortunate, though. They threaten to block a constructive discussion of how we can create an atmosphere in Wisconsin where environmental quality and economic vitality are not mutually exclusive goals.

    They also miss a few basic realities.

    First, in today’s economy, every job is a "green job." Any manufacturer who has weathered the recession and is still standing is doing so because they have squeezed every last penny of savings out of their operations.

    They have cut energy usage to the bone in order to cut operational costs.

    To create an artificial distinction and imply some sort of moral hierarchy between "green jobs" and "regular jobs" is misguided and offensive.   Whether you are making solar panels or ceiling panels, windmills or widgets, your job today is "going green" in one form or another and is critical to our regional economy.

    Second, once you are willing to acknowledge that all jobs matter, the debate must center on what the impact of new energy mandates and increased regulation will be on the general business climate here in Wisconsin.

    We should absolutely look for ways to make Wisconsin an attractive place to locate or expand jobs in emerging renewable energy technologies. But we must also look for ways to attract and support jobs in every other sector as well.

    Landing Ingeteam’s wind turbine generator factory was a big win for Milwaukee, but so was Bucyrus International Inc.’s acquisition of mining equipment giant Terex. The state’s global warming legislation needs to be looked at in relation to its impact on our entire economy.

    Finally, asking hard questions about what a piece of environmental, regulatory and social policy this sweeping will cost is not obstructionist or illegitimate. In fact, it is essential. That’s why the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) is bringing together some of the state’s most informed voices in this debate for a forum discussion entitled "Counting the Cost: Global Warming Legislation and the Region’s Economy," on Feb. 25. I invite you to attend this event, learn about this complex legislation and let your voice be heard.

    The fate of the state global warming bill is going to have a huge impact on your life and your business. The question is whether you will take the time to have an impact on this bill.


    Steve Baas is the government affairs director of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC).

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