US Green Economy growth

Under Obama’s watch the US Government stopped collecting data about the growing green economy in the USA[MSN]. But by 2016, when Trump won the election, researchers at University College London estimate 4% of citizens worked in the industry sector and supply chain, and it accounted for 1.3 trillion USD[Nature]. That is 20% growth from the time the US Department of Labor stopped tracking the industry in 2013, and the data used by the researchers in 2016 four years later, with an estimate 9.5 million FTE.

The study, published in the Journal Nature on 15 October 2019, is less about the findings – that the USA’s green economy has experienced steady growth and accounts for a far larger proportion of employment in the USA than does the fossil fuel sector – than it is about the methods of extracting this information.

The methods section is wonderfully readable and explains they use a surprisingly conservative ‘big data’ approach to triangulating transactional and operational business data. Their ‘net’ is somewhat wider than previous USA reports, but much more robust – e.g. each ‘transaction’ requires 7 separate confirmations before inclusion. That is intense filtering. Their resulting Low Carbon and Environmental Goods and Services Sector (LCEGSS) is a very useful ‘net’  for capturing a high quality measurement of green economic activity globally.

A graph showing economic and employment impact of the Green Economy in the USA from 2013 to 2016 The results are clear and strong growth in the green economy sector over the years examined. The authors estimate, in a related article in The Conversation, that 10x as many people are employed in the sector compared with direct employment in the fossil fuel industry.

And yet, they also warn the USA’s leadership in the Green Economy worldwide (where they did enjoy an edge over China) was shrinking, and the past three years have seen both increases in fossil fuel subsidies (estimated in 2015 to be 649 billion USD) and cuts to the green economy supports, while increasing the tax burden for the sector.

In contrast, China pledged in 2017 to put more than 360 billion USD into their clean energy industry by 2020 to generate a further 13 million jobs. That investment alone, not including the expansion of sales abroad and up the supply chain, might eliminate the gap between the two countries.