How Green Is My Economy? About 1 or 2 Percent

President Obama today visits Holland, Mich., for groundbreaking ceremonies at the future site of a lithium-battery manufacturing plant owned by LG Chem. NPR reports, “Clean Energy Builds Slowly, Despite Federal Cash“:

On Thursday, for the second time in two weeks, President Obama will deliver an economic pep talk at a company that has received Recovery Act funds for electric car batteries. He has recently given similar speeches at companies that create solar panels, wind turbines and biofuel.

In fact, of 15 visits to factories the President has made since taking office, nine of them — or 60 percent — involved “clean energy” projects and “green jobs,” embracing wind and solar power, electric vehicles or biofuels. (See our spreadsheet here.)

Are the priorities right? In April, the Economic and Statistics Administration, a branch of the Commerce Department, released a littled-noticed study,  “Measuring the Green Economy.” From the introduction, a statement of ESA’s findings:

Our results suggest that green products and services comprised 1% to 2% of the total private business economy in 2007. The lower estimate was developed using a narrow definition that included products that we found generated little debate regarding their “greenness.” The larger estimate was based on a broad definition that included products that some might argue were not green. Under the broad definition, the share of green products and services was substantially larger, but still constituted only a relatively small part of the economy.

The number of green jobs was also found to be modest, ranging from about 1.8 million jobs under the narrow definition to 2.4 million jobs under the broad definition. These jobs constituted between 1.5% and 2.0% of total private sector employment in 2007. Green products accounted for about the same share of employment in the manufacturing sector as in the services sector.

So that’s 2 percent of the jobs getting 60 percent of the President’s attention, at least the kind of attention represented by on-site visits to actual (and potential) manufacturing locations.

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