February 10, 2009
Growing a Green Economy
Green Tech Can Restore American Manufacturing
By Andrea Fereshteh
The smell from 10 million North Carolina hogs isn't just unpleasant -- it's actually changing the Earth's climate. But therein lies an opportunity. The solution to open hog waste lagoons that create greenhouse gasses and a host of other environmental problems may be a technology known as Super Soil Systems, which treats the entire waste stream from the hog farms and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 97 percent. The technology could also produce new American jobs. New research by Duke's Center for Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness (CGGC) shows that in addition to helping the environment, progressive technologies such as North Carolina-based Super Soil Systems can be the source of so-called "green collar" jobs that can resurrect U.S.-based manufacturing. President Barack Obama's plan for the economic recovery package includes revitalizing U.S. manufacturing while moving the nation away from oil dependence, lessening energy consumption and combating global warming. Obama stresses the importance of creating jobs in environmental industries. “They will be jobs, building the wind turbines and solar panels and fuel-efficient cars, that will lower our dependence on foreign oil,” Obama said during his first prime-time press conference. Highlighting the direct linkages between low-carbon technologies and U.S. jobs, the CGGC group's report "Manufacturing Climate Solutions" provides a detailed look at manufacturing jobs that already exist and might be created when the U.S. takes action to limit global-warming pollution. "Until now, there was no tangible evidence of what the jobs are, how they are created and what it means for U.S. workers. We are providing that here," says Gary Gereffi, professor of sociology and lead author of the report. "We don't guess where the jobs are; we name them. Our report uses value chains to show that clean technology jobs are also real economy jobs." Super Soil Systems is one of five carbon-reducing technologies with the potential for green job creation that CGGC researchers examine in their report. Gereffi and his colleagues provide detailed breakdowns of industry supply chains -- the raw materials, components and engineering that go into a finished product -- and maps highlighting the location of companies positioned to support green jobs. They also examined LED lighting, high-performance windows, auxiliary power units for long-haul trucks and solar power concentration. According to their data, North Carolina is one of the states that stands to benefit most from jobs in these sectors, along with Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California. Gereffi's research, called value chain analysis, is "a kind of economic sociology," he says. The CGGC team of full-time professional researchers, adjunct faculty, graduate and undergraduate students studies the full range of activities that firms and workers do to bring a product from its conception to its end use and beyond, he says. "We try to identify how markets work." Sometimes, the results are surprising even to people who think they understand an industry, Gereffi says. "Lots of the products and skills that are part of the American manufacturing heartland are essential components of clean technologies," he says. "There is clearly a positive link between the two, but you need to find it" The way to find it is CGGC's value chain analysis, a skill that drew the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to Gereffi's group. "As an advocate for caps on greenhouse gases, we want to be able to make people understand the economic opportunities associated with moving to a low carbon economy," said Jackie Roberts, director of sustainable technology at EDF, which co-sponsored the report. "We also want people to understand that some climate solutions have a strong manufacturing base. Meeting the challenge of climate change will ramp up the supply chains that wind their way through the heart of American manufacturing." CGGC Research associate Kristen Dubay, who has a background in health policy research, says her perception of what made a "green collar" worker was changed after working on this report. "Every regular Joe can potentially be a green collar worker. You don't have to be someone who cares about recycling or driving a Prius - just someone who cares about a job," she says. Union leaders who helped co-sponsor the report couldn't agree more. "While some seek to pit the environment against economic growth, we see economic opportunity in the solutions to the climate crisis," says Bob Baugh, executive director of the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council. "But to succeed, it means making certain that, from production to construction, these green investments are made in the U.S. That is the best way to assure that their positive ripple effects are felt throughout the entire economy. " (A copy of the study (2.7MB, PDF) is available at http://www.cggc.duke.edu/environment/climatesolutions ) Andrea Fereshteh is a senior writer in Duke's Office of News and Communications.