Black and Gray, Not Green: The Future of Jobs

We need jobs, and lots of them: unemployment is dropping but it’s a long road back to the days of 5% unemployment, and we’re not going to get there for a very long time. So where will the jobs come from? The old standbys of healthcare, IT, and education, will continue to add jobs, but there are more interesting and less obvious areas that will spur job creation.

Perhaps the most interesting are in energy, manufacturing, and robotics.

Energy

Let’s start with energy. Most of the jobs growth will be related to coal (yes, coal … that dirty, black stuff): getting it, burning it, and capturing the carbon emissions. It’s easier to get to than oil; it’s more abundant; and we need it. The two leading economies of the world — the U.S. and China — are heavily dependent on coal as a source of energy. The direct costs of coal are far lower than those of the alternatives in most circumstances. Coal provides 46% of the energy consumed in the United States today, and while oil is a major source, much of it comes from places that cause the price to fluctuate too much, creating uncertainty for business. By contrast, the U.S. is a net exporter of coal. Energy companies and others are making vast investments in technology to get more energy out of coal, clean the emissions from power plants, and even convert it to a liquid fuel.

Nuclear plants and the jobs associated with them — construction, operators, engineers, technicians, etc. – are another area related to energy that will generate jobs. Some 60 reactors are under construction worldwide, with that number expected to double in the next decade, including about 20 that are planned for the U.S. American companies are the dominant suppliers of components and expertise for building and operating these.

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Now to alternative energy: wind, solar, etc. Well, don’t hold your breath for a lot of green jobs. There are virtually no commercially viable green technologies in existence. Three recent examples can illustrate why green energy is a pie in the sky for now. Range Fuels, which failed despite $400 million in funding, half of which came from the government; Evergreen Solar, which recently closed its doors after $685 million in losses and $60 million in taxpayer support; and finally the failure of T. Boone Pickens’ wind power venture ($2 billion). The simple fact is that green technologies are still in their infancy and incapable of producing jobs in any meaningful quantity (except for liquidators) without being subsidized by the government. All those Chevy Volts and Nissan Leafs are going to have to be charged by energy from plants burning coal.

Robotics

Robots are going to be getting popular a whole lot sooner than we may expect. The big reason is caring for an aging population in developed economies. There will not be enough healthcare workers to help all those who need care and for increasingly longer periods, as life-spans keep increasing. Increasing immigration is an option, but unlikely, so that leaves robots to fill in. This is not science fiction: it’s already close to reality in Japan.
Within the next few years, Japanese companies will start marketing robotic home healthcare aides that can lift a person in and out of bed and perform tasks around the house. A Japanese company has produced a robotic nurse with realistic features and skin that mimics human behavior. Initially it will observe patients, collect data, and gauge patients’ reactions. It’s inevitable that we will see these here. That will spawn a huge new industry and by some estimates several hundred thousand new jobs in production, sales, maintenance, and support. And if you’re thinking of more recreational uses for robots then there are already production models of those.

Manufacturing

It may seem counterintuitive or absurd to suggest that manufacturing will be a source of job growth, but in the longer term we can expect that to occur. As developing economies — mainly India, China, and Brazil — continue to develop, they will have less of a cost advantage.
We’re already seeing the cost advantage being eroded as salaries continue to rise by 8%-10% annually in these countries. Products that could be produced in China move to Vietnam, and call centers in India move to the Philippines in the short term, but these countries do not have the capacity to take on even a fraction of the volume needed.
The second reason is that India and China will increasingly be forced to turn inward to serving their own internal markets rather than be able to export as much as they do today. Put these together and it seems obvious that some manufacturing will return, there not being enough sources of supply overseas.

Then again, maybe it’ll be done by robots.

Raghav Singh, director of analytics at Korn Ferry Futurestep, has developed and launched multiple software products and held leadership positions at several major recruiting technology vendors. His career has included work as a consultant on enterprise HR systems and as a recruiting and HRIT leader at several Fortune 500 companies. Opinions expressed here are his own.

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24 Comments on “Black and Gray, Not Green: The Future of Jobs

  1. Get ready Raghav. Speaking the truth will get you flamed pretty good in this forum.

    Your point about growth potential has only been the clear reality for about the last 40 years or so. But we’ve been too busy funding and “researching” the destruction of these US-based industries to notice it. We call it “energy regulation”.

    Buying a $40,000 electric car and not being able to pay the electric bill isn’t exactly the model for economic sustainability in the energy industry, the car industry, or the financing industry. But it certainly employs tens of thousands of government regulators, auditors, and enforcers.

    It reminds me of a piece posted here about a year ago on how government jobs should be the TPR target of the future. And when 200,000 government jobs have been created (not saved, *created*) in just the past 48 months, it should make us all reconsider what “sustainability” really means.

  2. Good article and I agree. I think another issue that is impacting job growth is that employers are finally starting to get smart when it comes to overhiring, and are reluctant to do so given all the downsizing that has taken place. It’s still better to overwork than to overhire. It never makes sense to put people in jobs where they can’t stay productive over a sustained period of time.

  3. As Mr. Pollack says speaking the truth…is pretty good in this forum. Unfortunately, some of your points have little basis in fact and instead are your opinions (no issue with that – we’re all allowed opinions).

    The issue is that you make statements of opinion sound like they’re rooted in factual analysis. That’s misleading – particularly to anyone that is interested in making a career of some the business sectors you’ve included in your opinions. I won’t proceed to go down the list – there are actually too many for a comment to mention (perhaps researching coal, nuclear, VC and Private Equity funding, viable technologies, causes for start-up failure, utility demand usage mgmt, electric transmission would be a good starting point).

    I mean no offense at all, but these pages are typically places where Talent Management, Acquisition and Marketing is written about and discussed. It might be best to leave government policy, economics and geopolitics to those that are expert in those areas – and stick to recruiting…

    Oh yeah, back to Jobs and Recruiting – it should be pointed out that in 2009 at the height of the Great Recession, about 50,000 new jobs were added to the solar industry alone – but I guess that would not be considered a “meaningful quantity” for a type of industry with “no commercially viable technology” (2010 figures projected to be much larger are not in yet…).

  4. Can’t talk about adding jobs without talking about funding and market (viability/sustainability). And the market just isn’t there (yet) for the energy sources being MARKETED as the future.

    The moral and ethical issues aside; (aka, the environment) why would someone buy or invest in something for the future that they can get cheaper, now? Perhaps if the NOW were brought into the land of fiscal reality, the future might have a chance. But if we continue to chant the mantra of alternative energy and never show “Joe the consumer” a reasonable price nor energy impact, what chance does it have? And right now – even with hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funding (hence many of those “new” [unfunded] jobs you describe)- it has neither a reasonable price, nor a significant impact.

  5. This is a bit old, but may be helpful:

    Table 1. The 30 fastest growing occupations covered in the 2008-2009 Occupational Outlook Handbook

    (Numbers in thousands)

    Employment change
    Occupation 2006-16 Most significant source of
    postsecondary education
    Number Percent training (1)

    Network systems and data communications …. 140 53.4 Bachelor’s degree

    Personal and home care aides …………… 389 50.6 Short-term on-the-job
    training

    Home health aides …………………….. 384 48.7 Short-term on-the-job
    training

    Computer software engineers, applications .. 226 44.6 Bachelor’s degree

    Veterinary technologists and technicians … 29 41.0 Associate degree

    Personal financial advisors ……………. 72 41.0 Bachelor’s degree

    Makeup artists, theatrical and performance . 1 39.8 Postsecondary vocational
    award

    Medical assistants ……………………. 148 35.4 Moderate-term on-the-
    job training

    Veterinarians ………………………… 22 35.0 First professional degree

    Substance abuse and behavioral disorder
    counselors ………………………….. 29 34.3 Bachelor’s degree

    Skin care specialists …………………. 13 34.3 Postsecondary vocational
    award

    Financial analysts ……………………. 75 33.8 Bachelor’s degree

    Social and human service assistants …….. 114 33.6 Moderate-term on-the-
    job training

    Gaming surveillance officers and gaming Moderate-term on-the-
    investigators ……………………….. 3 33.6 job training

    Physical therapist assistants ………….. 20 32.4 Associate degree

    Pharmacy technicians ………………….. 91 32.0 Moderate-term on-the-
    job training

    Forensic science technicians ……………. 4 30.7 Bachelor’s degree

    Dental hygienists ……………………… 50 30.1 Associate degree

    Mental health counselors ……………….. 30 30.0 Master’s degree

    Mental health and substance abuse social
    workers ……………………………… 37 29.9 Master’s degree

    Marriage and family therapists ………….. 7 29.8 Master’s degree

    Dental assistants ……………………… 82 29.2 Moderate-term on-the-
    job training

    Computer systems analysts ………………. 146 29.0 Bachelor’s degree

    Database administrators ………………… 34 28.6 Bachelor’s degree

    Computer software engineers, systems
    software …………………………….. 99 28.2 Bachelor’s degree

    Gaming and sports book writers and runners .. 5 28.0 Short-term on-the-job
    training

    Environmental science and protection
    technicians, including health…………… 10 28.0 Associate degree

    Manicurists and pedicurists …………….. 22 27.6 Postsecondary vocational
    award

    Physical therapists ……………………. 47 27.1 Master’s degree

    Physician assistants …………………… 18 27.0 Master’s degree

  6. I will say this Dave – 50,000 solar jobs in 2009. They’re selling product to all sorts of entities (large C&I, Municipal, Education, Utilities, etc.). This is not a myth, mirage, miracle or merely marketing – and that’s just solar…btw the millions you speak of are really Billions – and I would ask you how much was spent on the nation’s railroad, the Manhattan project, Marshall Plan, the Interstate Highway System, NASA’s path to the moon, the development of the Internet and on and on…all govt funded..any idea how many jobs were spawned from these efforts – IMO its the reason that you and I have the prosperity we experience of living in the world’s greatest country on Earth…think about it…(you may want to also think about your future, the future of your children and grand children too – and not how quickly scale is bringing down Clean Energy pricing….(its possible that by this time next year solar may have price parity at the rate of expansion and R&D).

    Own any water front property…if not, ask someone that does whether we should try to avoid 600PPM of carbon in the atmosphere before mid century…That’s all I’m going to say about that…

  7. ISTM that if we aren’t able to make a significant committment within the next 10-15 years to stabilize and then reduce CO2 emissions below current levels, we will have passed a tipping point where it will be very difficult to hold temperature increases over the next century to 2 decrees C, and it’s important that we try.

    I also think (have no evidence) that if we hit a particular level of CO2, it may be a new level of stability, so that it would be very difficult to subsequently reduce it below that level.

    I hope that both my statements are wrong….

    Keith

  8. K.C. – Excellent points, all of them. Understand that I’m not opposed to the development of alternative energy sources, only the manner in which it’s being promoted (save the earth!), researched (we’re right, you’re wrong so shut up!), publicized (bad news sells, moderation doesn’t), and funded (tax the “bad”, give to the “good”).

    Second, which of the government investments you cite had current, viable, profitable, and functional alternatives being simultaneously hindered by the same government? ZERO. This is why the general public is so divided and why good vs. bad taxpayer funding, promoted by ‘Chicken Little’ media organizations, and supported by “we’re right, you’re wrong so shut up” research isn’t working.

    Finally, look at the buyers of the alternative energy products you cited: Municipal, Education, Utilities. They’re using government funding (aka, our taxes) to do it! The others are using a “rebate” (also our taxes). I’m not an economist but being able to sell a product to yourself with money you don’t have to work for is an interesting model. Completely unsustainable, but interesting nevertheless. My guess is that T. Boone Pickens has a brand new $2 Billion appreciation of this concept.

    Again, alternative energy sources are good and noble goals. Cramming them unwillingly and divisively up the noses of consumers while they stare at productive, logical, and economical options is hardly a way to “market” anything.

    Finally, save for a tiny fraction of the US population,”…the nation’s railroad, the Manhattan project, Marshall Plan, the Interstate Highway System, NASA’s path to the moon, the development of the Internet and on and on…” were ALL supported by the general American public. When, and only when, that becomes the case will alternative energy grow in a similar fashion.

    Jobs is the topic here. And I find it particularly distasteful to be forced to buy them with my taxes. I would much prefer to invest in a company that knows how and when to add them, support them, and eliminate them, and can’t simply take more of my money when they fail.

  9. While it’s true that the solar industry has added jobs, let’s be clear on why that has occurred, as K.C. Donovan puts it “the height of the great recession”. An analysis of data for 2009 from the Dept. of Energy’s The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE), shows that through March of 2010 stimulus funded energy programs have provided $451 million in funding for solar thermal installations. Another $300 million was provided through programs targeting energy efficiency. States have provided an additional $550 million in loan programs and guarantees. The total being $1.3 billion, or an effective subsidy of about $26K per job, if the number of 50,000 jobs created is accurate.

    This investment may well be justified in support of reducing carbon emissions, but let’s have no illusions that there is a cost. To further underscore the point that green technologies are not viable at this point, look at the performance of mutual funds that have invested in the industry. The top 5 mutual funds have collectively lost money, with 3 having produced negative returns of more than 10%.

  10. The Stimulus of Feb 2009 dedicated about $80BB toward Clean Energy – appx. $30BB was slated toward direct job creation through investment. The difference this time was that the intent was not just immediate job creation – but to create an infrastructure and system for building the Clean Energy industry for the long haul. Like the Electricity or Transportation industries, businesses are not created in a vacuum and take time to evolve – some faster than others depending on the scale and growth (it took Edison decades to wire America…). That Clean Energy Technology jobs are growing at greatly enhanced rates – solar grew by 50% compared with the general economy where growth was 2% – demonstrates that the marketplace IS supporting these business endeavors. In fact, in poll after poll the general public supports Clean Energy adoption – by a wide margin (mostly 75%, with slanted polling it still tops out at 55%!!). So no idea where you’re getting the idea that this is otherwise.

    A lot of this job growth is with taxpayer dollars, but when we provide the oil industry with $280B taxpayer dollars annually and the Clean Energy industry with on average less than $6B the difference is ridiculous – especially when 3 of the Fortune 5 largest Global Companies are oil companies that receive these subsidies… You talk about how distasteful it is to grow jobs with taxpayer money – where did the millions working in an Internet get their job? Or the auto industry, or the railroad industry, or the aerospace industry, or the aviation industry, or the electric industry, or the Nuclear Industry – should I keep going? Have I made my point? Why are you picking on the one industry that can ensure prosperity for the next century…ever hear of Peak Oil? What do you want to guess a gallon of gas will cost nationally the 1st week of August $4, $5? Or how about in August of 2015 – $6 $7? You all set up to pipe Natural Gas into your car with the other 240 million cars out there – that only would add to the carbon gas polluting the atmosphere?

    Time to get on the wagon guys…or maybe you’d prefer to ride a horse into town to the barbershop to play checkers and hear about the local news and gossip, being sure that you left early enough so you could get home before the sun went down and it got dark. That’s the type of life you’d have if our govt hadn’t decide to help build a thing or two with your tax dollars…

  11. By the way Dave – I agree wholeheartedly with disliking the, “we’re right, you’re wrong so shut up” way that climate deniers and anti clean energy people seem to shout in forums – its so frustrating as opposed to the sharing of ideas in a level headed discourse – glad you see it that way too (TIC)…Anyway, we’re looking at about 500,000 new jobs in the next 3-4 years in Clean Tech so got a lot of work to do!

  12. Uh, what? Have you read the previous posts or do you just feel the need to spew moveon.org talking points in random and disconnected ways? Try this:

    Topic: Jobs In Alternative Energy Sector
    Point 1: I like alternative energy… and I buy it and use it.
    Point 2: I think it should be fiscally self-sustaining.
    Point 3: It isn’t self-sustaining because the demand for it is not there.
    Point 4: No matter how many BB’s of tax dollars the government spends, demand MUST be there to sustain the industry. It isn’t.
    Point 5: This is because “alternative energy” is a redundant product. We already have energy that is cheaper.
    Point 6: Remove government $$ and calculate alternative energy job growth. It is microscopic, at best. This is a shame, and a reality.
    Point 7: Supply and demand are real concepts. Claiming job growth from taxes for a redunant product is fraudulent marketing.
    Point 8: Saving the world for our great-great grandchildren is noble and good. Feeding and housing my current children is nobler and good-er.
    Final Point: In poll after poll after poll, 100% of the general public said they’d rather have a job than a “free” solar panel.

  13. @Dave: A number industries we take for granted (aerospace, electronics) have developed through government support- typically the military. If it helps curb CO2 emissions fast enough to dodge the >2 C temperature increase “bullet”
    I’d be very willing to have some of my tax money go to support it. Some already goes to support the fossil fuel and nuclear industry. How about we switch: whatever money is currently going to fossil and nuclear goes to support conservation, renewables, and efficiency. (Speaking of which: you can’t reduce consumption through increased energy efficiency. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/12/20/101220fa_fact_owen)

    I can anticipate some will say:
    “How about we end ALL subsidies, and let the Free Market (May its Name be eternally blessed!) decide? Sounds good- Fist get Big Oil, Big Coal, and Big Nuke to fully pay for the externalities that they dump on the rest of us, and then we can talk.

    Cheers,

    Keith

  14. Not sure how the leap from government support of aerospace and electronics to “typically the military” was made but, in the interest of discussion, I can see the editorial connection.

    In reality, neither the Wright brothers (aerospace), financed by their own bicycle business, nor Edison and Tesla (electronics), who were funded by Spencer Trask, JP Morgan, and Westinghouse, were funded by the government. Once military application was recognized, government support for R&D (not “jobs”) began. Whether we like it or not, the military is the reason we exist as a free nation today. And yes, our existence as a free nation is reason enough to support R&D in alternative energy too… but not by paying for the production of unsustainable goods and services through taxation, buying them with tax money, and claiming “job growth”.

    The outcome of R&D (not “jobs”) done in any sector supports the basis for growth. When demand for the developed product or service exceeds supply, real self-sustaining jobs are the natural outcome.

    At the risk of beating the long-dead horse once again: ALL of these entrepreneurs were trying to bring a new product to market. NONE of them were trying to replace the exact same product with a more expensive one. As vinyl records were peaking, 8-track tapes were in R&D, as 8-tracks were peaking, casettes were in R&D, as casettes were peaking, CD’s were in R&D, and so on, and so on.

    Which begs the question: What will replace coal, oil, natural gas, and nukes? And the answer – which is the entire point of Raghav’s article – nothing, YET.

  15. @Dave: Interesting you should discuss R&D:

    The Financial Page
    Sputnikonomics
    by James Surowiecki
    http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financial/2011/02/14/110214ta_talk_surowiecki

    When President Obama, in his State of the Union address, laid out a plan for the U.S. to “win the future,” there seemed to be some sleight of hand at work. He said that the government needed to cut “excessive” expenditures lest we be buried beneath “a mountain of debt,” and called for a five-year freeze on domestic spending. But he also called for sharp increases in investments in infrastructure, education, and new technology, which will cost many billions of dollars. With no tax increases in the offing and the government running a $1.5-trillion deficit, a new “Sputnik moment” means adding to the mountain of debt.

    Republicans were quick to attack Obama for proposing more spending on the heels of his 2009 stimulus plan. But Sputnikonomics involves something quite different. The stimulus was a Keynesian measure: spending by businesses and individuals had plummeted, so the government stepped in to plug a hole in demand. Obama’s new plan may have some stimulus-like effects—creating new jobs, say—but the focus is entirely different. Instead of trying to stimulate short-term demand, the plan seeks to improve our long-term growth rate by boosting supply: increasing the pace of innovation, and making workers more productive and commerce more efficient. In that sense, it’s a supply-side plan—a phrase we typically associate with Ronald Reagan—not a demand-side one.

    Why do this when Washington is obsessed with tightening its belt? Because spending on infrastructure, R. & D., and education has the potential to create more value than it costs. The return on investment from the building of the Interstate Highway System in the nineteen-fifties and sixties has been estimated at thirty-five per cent annually. The economists Kevin Murphy and Robert Topel have suggested that the social benefits of medical research reach into the trillions of dollars. And investments in military technology during the original Sputnik moment gave us, among other things, satellites, the microchip, G.P.S., and the Internet, the cumulative benefits of which are incalculable.

    Of course, when government is involved, there’s a danger of political considerations trumping economic ones, but our track record of using public money to foster innovation is good. And there’s reason to think that of late we’ve been skimping on potentially valuable investments, which may help explain why our long-term growth rate has slowed. Infrastructure is decaying; our workforce is less educated, relative to the rest of the world, than it once was; and for most of the past decade federal funding of research and development grew barely at all—as a percentage of G.D.P., it’s now about sixty per cent of what it was during the sixties.

    The private sector, meanwhile, now devotes most of its R. & D. money to development, rather than to the kind of basic research that fuels breakthroughs. For much of the twentieth century, industrial labs at places like G.E., Xerox, I.B.M., and A.T. & T. were founts of innovation. (Bell Labs produced seven Nobel Prize winners in physics and a profusion of concrete inventions.) But that was in an era when such companies enjoyed near-monopolistic control of their markets and faced less short-term pressure from shareholders; they could invest heavily in work that didn’t yield an immediate return. Those days are gone, and American companies now do less basic research. Economists have long argued that companies will underinvest in R. & D. and infrastructure because so-called spillover benefits prevent their capturing all the value they produce. (Think of how much money companies other than Apple have made selling apps for the iPhone and the iPad.) And that’s precisely what we’re seeing now.

    from the issuecartoon banke-mail thisIf spillover benefits are a drawback for corporations, they’re a huge boon to society, which is why it makes sense for government to try to foster them. (In 1998, the economists Charles Jones and John Williams showed that the socially optimal level of investment in R. & D. was two to four times its current rate.) Historically, at least, this was a bipartisan position. Alexander Hamilton argued for the “encouragement of new inventions and discoveries” by government. In the nineteenth century, an era of limited government, one of the few things that people were willing to spend money on was “internal improvements”—canals, railroads, and the like—and Abraham Lincoln supported these as being of “general benefit.” And Dwight Eisenhower created the Interstate Highway System and presided over the post-Sputnik boom in government-funded scientific research.

    It’s hard to make a case for investing more when everyone believes we should be spending less, but there’s never been a better time. Interest rates are historically low, so borrowing is cheap. (Corporations have already realized this: they borrowed half a trillion dollars last year.) And the weak economy means that there’s less competition for labor and resources. Yet, instead of taking advantage of this, we’re too often doing the opposite. Only recently, a plan for a new tunnel under the Hudson River was killed. The tunnel would have reduced congestion, expanded commerce between New Jersey ports and New York, and created enormous long-term value for the entire region. But short-term budget constraints doomed it. This is a classic instance of eating your seed corn and of the way that fiscal “responsibility” can actually be irresponsible. At the moment, we’re spending too much on things that consume resources—like the military and earmarks—and not enough on things that create them. ?

    Read more http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financial/2011/02/14/110214ta_talk_surowiecki#ixzz1Eu3al2bm

  16. Doubt anyone but us three or four are still reading this thread, but I will add this:

    Keith – you have a very healthy view of the economics and get that the TRILLIONS of dollars that the US Government spends on energy subsidies (I’m throwing in the cost of the US Navy Aircraft Carriers that have kept the oil tanker lanes open in the Gulf/Med for the last 50 years – obviously with the externalities as Keith points out – this number would go WAY UP from trillion, but let’s leave at trillions for now…)are primarily for the benefit of the Fossil Fuel Industry (annually $280B for oil alone to about $6B mostly for Corn Ethanol…). This is not in dispute – sorry Dave – go look it up. If you were to withdraw all Fossil subsidies we would be paying similar prices for regular gas as the EU pays – about $7-$9 a gallon, and our home energy bills would be more than double. Again, these figures are from the Edison Institute, CERES and the American Petroleum Institute (all very conservative, right thinking organizations…). If we were to end these subsidies our economy would tank to Depression levels – so PLEASE do not advocate this. IMO we should cut them 20-25% (Obama has recommended this) and wean the fossils off the dole (in itself an absurd notion when you consider that BP, ExxonMobil and the rest rake in $20BB profits regularly each quarter!!) – and use this funding to scale solar, wind, biofuels, geothermal, ocean energy – so Dave won’t have a heart attack in thinking that he is cyclically double paying for his energy – once with his taxes and then with his after tax earnings…(sorry Dave but you have been doing this your whole life!). Anyway, eventually, the subsidies can be decreased to zero – since oil will be scarce and unlike fossil fuel – the alternatives noted above are RENEWABLE – once built we won’t need to subsidize the drilling for more – the economy of scale (mostly from the Chinese) will take over the market and the market will dictate the price based on traditional supply and demand…

    Now about this Move On comment – you are proving my TIC comment about polite discourse and it would be great if you could alter your approach. I have spent an intense period of my life researching the Clean Energy, Peak Oil, Fossil Fuel, Population and Emerging and Developing Global Energy Markets – and I am not spewing MoveOn rhetoric. In fact, I have been a right leaning conservative most of my 50 years. The points I have made are from this research and if this wasn’t a blog comment thread I could show you the sources of this data (most from ones that you would be very surprised with…) – somewhere along the line the Repubs and Conservatives began being co-opted by thought leaders who think that everything is a govt problem, that Wall St. will solve all our problems, that we shouldn’t concern ourselves with the byproducts of the zeal for growth and wealth accumulation, and we should be left alone to do as we please with our hard won freedoms – certainly seems OK to me – except when you talk to IEA Analysts (peak oil research) or Arctic Ice Core Analysts, or Wood’s Hole Oceanographers (as I have – among others) who all have that hallow look in their eyes that says “if you only knew what I know…” – you would put aside shaded political views that are drilled in by the Conservative thought leadership – as I have, and see the world as it truly is – instead of what you want it to be… All of this data is available online – but you have to look beyond the folks that want to tell you something because they have an interest in the outcome – verses those of us that do it because the story somehow needs to be told…

    Last point, unfortunately Keith (if you’re still reading this) is that the two points you made earlier in this thread are mostly correct…we have already gone past the tipping point – our Climate is and will continue to change – at this point it is only how MUCH different and will it impact our survival (growing seasons, crop types, ocean refugees, etc.). We have way too many people living at or below sea level – a one foot rise in ocean depths during a Nor’easter storm or tides from a full moon for that matter, will wash these homes and towns and city streets away. Secondly – although I have not heard of a sustaining level of CO2 that will not dissipate once a certain level is reached – I do know that it could take thousands of years to happen. I have many friends who are way smarter than me, and are respected leaders in Finance, Security (the Nation’s), Climate Science, Clean Tech, etc. that are certain that we will reach a level of 550-600 PPM of Carbon in the atmosphere – for you keeping track at home 350 is the magic number where the climate begins to be effected (we’re approaching 390 today). With 600PPM Carbon, we could be in the impact range of the unthinkable – in fact many of these smart guys are publishing books on how to deal with the expected changes so we DO survive as we know it…

    So Dave – perhaps you could put away your sticks and stones and begin to get serious – if not – no worry, some of us are and hopefully solutions and energy choices will be made that will help even the buggy whip manufacturers into their first Hydrogen Car, how about Compressed Air, Flux Capacitator? (no offense – just having some fun…go ahead smile, you can do it!)

  17. Supply and demand. A simple concept with direct pertinence and clear relevance to Raghav’s article.

    Regardless, this concept and subsequent opinion is ignored and avoided entirely by referring to the cost of US Navy Aircraft carriers, climate change, PPM of carbon, “smart guys are publishing books”, Artic Ice Core Analysts with hallow [sic] looks in their eyes, and “shaded political views that are drilled in by the Conservative thought leadership”, growing seasons, crop types, sea level changes, Wall St. will solve all our problems,

    — big breath —

    CO2, Nor’easters, economy of scale, peak oil research, EU gas prices…and, “All of this data is available online…”. Really? Well, thank God for that.

    If the article mentioned any of the above items, or if I made reference to any of them, I can’t seem to find it. Nevertheless, I’m thankful that people don’t… “shout in forums – its so frustrating as opposed to the sharing of ideas in a level headed discourse.” Besides… “these pages are typically places where Talent Management, Acquisition and Marketing is written about and discussed. It might be best to leave government policy, economics and geopolitics to those that are expert in those areas – and stick to recruiting…”.

    And since supply and demand, a simple concept, has a 1:1 relationship with recruiting, and in this case with jobs supported by demand, it might be appropriate to try and focus on that.

  18. Ahhh, we agree on something! Great – focus on jobs…

    The idea that Raghav put forth, “don’t hold your breath for a lot of green jobs. There are virtually no commercially viable green technologies in existence. Three recent examples can illustrate why green energy is a pie in the sky for now.” Is inaccurate and this is exactly why the information above has been included. Be that as it may, with the addition of 50,000 new jobs the solar industry added last year there are just under 100,000 people working in Solar today (just one of the Clean Energy Sectors) thats a 100% increase in job growth in one year. Solar jobs are projected to grow an additional 25% in 2011. Adding the Solar worker population to the Wind sector, about 80,000 and Biofuels about 40,000 – and you have from just these three 220,000 direct workers (excluding Smart Grid, Hydro, and Geothermal which combined most likely have more than 220K but I don’t have these figures).

    Coal on the other hand, one of Raghav’s suggested areas of job exploration in Energy have about 140,000 total employees (supported by almost 10x the government subsidy compared to Clean Energy govt support), with projected job growth closer to the projected national average of 2% – with a dwindling non renewable supply of the quality of coal needed for burning in the Nation’s Coal Burning Power Plants (Mining 80K and Coal Power Plants 60K direct employees). If you’re interested in an energy career, which would you choose?

    The highly regulated Nuclear industry at the 104 Nuke plants in the US represent about 60,000 employees (average about 600/plant give or take). Raghav’s point pertaining to 20 nuke plants in the works is also somewhat misleading. There are only 2 plants that will come on line in the next decade providing about 1,500 new jobs (mostly from 2013-2015). The other plants are in the permitting stage that can take up to 20 years for approval – many of these may not be approved. Finally concerning Nuclear, there certainly will be temporary construction jobs available as these two plants are built which is a great short term jolt to both the GA and TN areas where they are located. Long term the numbers are much smaller. (most data sourced from BLS and http://bigthink.com/ideas/25273)

    OK, Dave there is a review of the job energy markets. I again ask, which career would you choose if you were interested in an Energy career? There are hundreds of jobs available in the top 15 markets across the country – with just about every market regardless of size experiencing job openings – especially for STEM based careers. If anyone is still reading this thread besides Dave and I, and have an interest head to Google and find them…(or you can also come to Clean Journey as we provide a window on the companies doing this work – btw – its cost free).

  19. Hmmm…Can’t see how my last post wasn’t pertinent and relevent to Raghav’s article (directly commented on several of his points – wasn’t this you complaint?) Tough to do that in two sentences and that I guess is THE point – making concrete declarations based on assumptions is easy to do – just don’t avoid facts.

  20. @ K.C. Thank you, I’ve been told here I have many things, but never before “a healthy view”.

    @Dave. “Apparently the concept of supply and demand isn’t as easy to understand as I thought.”
    You’re right- the theory of S & D isn’t as simple as is commonly thought.”
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supply_and_demand)
    The four basic laws of supply and demand are:[1]

    If demand increases and supply remains unchanged, then it leads to higher equilibrium price and quantity.
    If demand decreases and supply remains unchanged, then it leads to lower equilibrium price and quantity.
    If supply increases and demand remains unchanged, then it leads to lower equilibrium price and higher quantity.
    If supply decreases and demand remains unchanged, then it leads to higher price and lower quantity…..

    Criticism
    At least two assumptions are necessary for the validity of the standard model:
    first, that supply and demand are independent; and second, that supply is “constrained by a fixed resource”; If these conditions do not hold, then the Marshallian model cannot be sustained. Sraffa’s critique focused on the inconsistency (except in implausible circumstances) of partial equilibrium analysis and the rationale for the upward-slope of the supply curve in a market for a produced consumption good[18]. The notability of Sraffa’s critique is also demonstrated by Paul A. Samuelson’s comments and engagements with it over many years, for example:

    “What a cleaned-up version of Sraffa (1926) establishes is how nearly empty are all of Marshall’s partial equilibrium boxes. To a logical purist of Wittgenstein and Sraffa class, the Marshallian partial equilibrium box of constant cost is even more empty than the box of increasing cost.”[19].

    Aggregate excess demand in a market is the difference between the quantity demanded and the quantity supplied as a function of price. In the model with an upward-sloping supply curve and downward-sloping demand curve, the aggregate excess demand function only intersects the axis at one point, namely, at the point where the supply and demand curves intersect. The Sonnenschein-Mantel-Debreu theorem shows that the standard model cannot be rigorously derived in general from general equilibrium theory[20].

    The model of prices being determined by supply and demand assumes perfect competition. But:
    “economists have no adequate model of how individuals and firms adjust prices in a competitive model. If all participants are price-takers by definition, then the actor who adjusts prices to eliminate excess demand is not specified”[21].

    Goodwin, Nelson, Ackerman, and Weissskopf write: “If we mistakenly confuse precision with accuracy, then we might be misled into thinking that an explanation expressed in precise mathematical or graphical terms is somehow more rigorous or useful than one that takes into account particulars of history, institutions or business strategy. This is not the case. Therefore, it is important not to put too much confidence in the apparent precision of supply and demand graphs. Supply and demand analysis is a useful precisely formulated conceptual tool that clever people have devised to help us gain an abstract understanding of a complex world. It does not – nor should it be expected to – give us in addition an accurate and complete description of any particular real world market.” [22]”

    I freely admit I don’t understand most of what this (above)means, but ISTM that it says:
    “Simplistic S & D models don’t work in the real world.”

    Keith

  21. Supply and Demand is interesting when reviewing energy – if we were to eliminate the government subsidies to Coal, Natural Gas and Oil – prices would increase extensively – making non subsidized Clean Energy – cheaper per energy unit (particularly wind and solar). Demand would shift as consumers would buy the less expensive alternative.

    Great example is the last time gas prices escalated to $4 a gallon in the summer of 2008. Sales of Toyota’s Prius exploded with a waiting list of months as consumers ran to get a vehicle that would use less fuel. When gas prices lowered to below $3 a gallon – sales slowed and lots started to fill up at Toyota dealerships. With numerous Hybrid choices today that wasn’t available in 2008, it will be interesting to see what happens this summer when regular gas blows by $4 on its way to $5…take a look at the current situation and we are already unable to meet global oil demands (by about 1.5-2 million barrels a day!). Not going to be much fun…Nissan Leaf looks pretty good when you consider that. How about that for Supply and Demand?

  22. Wonder if we’ll see an increased push for tele-commuting?
    I just had a meeting where a recruiter said many of the engineers used Skype video to communicate. I asked if there seemed to be any drawbcks, and he said no. What I DIDN’T add at that point was: Why does ANYBODY who can do their jobs “effectively” this way need to come in?
    Maybe we could provide a corporate tax reduction for employers who maximize the number of employees who telecommute, or live within walking (1 mi?) or biking (5 mi?)distance. (The latter two could help employers whose employees need to be onsite.)

    -kh

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