Push for green jobs is strong, but numbers are fuzzy

Calls for boosting the U.S. clean-energy industry have long been met with sticker shock. But now the estimated cost of the transition -- hundreds of billions of dollars -- is being touted as a way to create millions of "green jobs."

President-elect Barack Obama said on the campaign trail that spending $150 billion over the next decade to boost energy efficiency would help create 5 million jobs in fields ranging from wind-turbine builders to insulation installers who make houses more energy-efficient.

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The numbers are debated by experts and among Obama's advisers, and are likely to spark debate when Congress considers a stimulus package including green jobs. But a big government push focused on jobs in clean energy industries could be the best chance in years for renewable energy and energy efficiency to take root in the United States.

Still, critics say that analyzing only green jobs misses part of the story. "It's not looking at the other side of the coin: You are spending more money for your energy," said Anne Smith, vice president at consulting firm CRA International. The consulting firm wrote a report for the coal mining industry in April saying that, under a cap and trade global warming bill, gains in green jobs would be "more than offset" by job losses in other sectors. That bill failed, but Obama has said he supports capping emissions (Jeffrey Ball, Wall Street Journal [subscription required], Nov. 7).

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