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Green Training With a Lack of Green

by Susannah Kopecky, published

In flush times, luxury and abstract pleasures are welcomed, and with good reason: why sweat the small stuff when you're riding high? During hard economic times and amid debt problems, there is no logical reason to continue spending as though it's sustainable. With California still in the red to the tune of more than $20 billion, the question arises: how appropriate is it to direct resources toward "green" jobs?

This isn't just a function of wasteful California spending; it is inextricably tied to federal spending programs as well.

The Governor's Office announced on August 31 that it would be investing $75 million in "establishing the nation's largest state-sponsored green jobs training program," known as the Clean Energy Workforce Training Program, or CEWTP. Governor Schwarzenegger was in Los Angeles at the LA Trade Technical College when the announcement was made that funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 (which greenlighted rather reckless spending to the tune of $787 billion in total) would be kicking in to foot the merry deal. Also funding the CEWTP will be "public-private partnerships and state and local funding." California will be leveraging" $20 million fom the ARRA, while the California Energy Commission contributing $15 million from its Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program. The Public Interesty Energy Research program will be giving $12 million, the California Emplyment Development Department will be giving $5 million and public-private cooperations will accounts for more than $23 million of the remainder.

This is a lofty and positive (if not misguided) goal, to be sure, but also an entirely inappropriate one to fulfill, at this particular juncture in time. Using state funds to pay for what is still considered controversial, is not a well-though out move for legislators and public servants with reelection bids coming up shortly. According to the Governor's Office, the CEWTP program would train "more than 20,000 new or re-skilled clean energy workers to build a workforce capable of performing the jobs necessary to meet the state's goals of renewable energy development, climate change reducation, clean transportation and green building construction for a green new economy."

The governor is looking for ways to help train those out of work, and those who hope such job training will make their more competitive workers for the future, and such goals are very laudable. If these were happier economic times, such an announcement would be much more welcome news; at this point, to continue to spend as though the state is still in the black, rather than the red, may hurt the economy more than help it down the road. Investments in currently neded infrastructure, such as old freeways, would be a great way to spend ARRA funding quickly, and get immediate results, rather than desired results, particularly as many continue to hotly debate the actual science behind the global warming-turned-climate change debate.

How about saving the green for the wallets of California citizens, who may be staring down the barrel at yet another tax hike, to pay for programs like these, all the time? To invest a sum as large as $75 million in an inappropriately-timed program, which also has its mandate and basis in controversial and hotly debated issues (climate change) is not a wise move, on the heels of an already damning move to tighten the water flow around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a three-year statewide drought, possible tax hikes, sales tax increases, massive budget deficits and a groundswell of Tea Party participants who are getting tired of seeing green in governmental hyperbole, at the expense of their own livelihoods. Start a massive new program to train for luxury jobs which don't exist, while in the midst of a global economic downturn? That's just bad governing.

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