Some papers did better. According to Brookings, one its report’s most important findings is “the fact that the number of jobs in ‘clustered’ clean-economy establishments grew significantly faster than did the number in their more isolated counterparts.” A story by the Times Union in Albany, New York, got the word “cluster” into the lead and followed up by explaining that “many of the workers are employed at sites such as the Albany NanoTech complex along Fuller Road or General Electric’s renewable energy headquarters in Schenectady.” An article in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, whose hometown ranked fiftieth in the nation for green jobs, had a nice description of eastern Tennessee’s “Innovation Valley,” and included an interview with Thom Mason, its chair and the director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Jonathan Rothwell, a senior research analyst with Brookings and one of the report’s co-authors, told The Detroit News that Michigan, the only state to lose green jobs, shed most of them outside the city, which is “clustered with manufacturing companies that spun off to do work in areas such as in battery technology.” Rothwell suggested to the Tusla World that if its city’s managers wanted to look at ripe areas for clustering, “Those would include wind and appliance and waste-to-energy as well as air and water purification technologies.”
Colorado’s Daily Camera boasted that, “Although Boulder was not one of the largest metropolitan areas included in the study, Brookings officials provided a similarly focused clean-economy profile to the Camera because of the region’s ‘super’ performance on key measures, officials said.” And the San Francisco Chronicle, while not mentioning the report at all, wrapped its key points into a story about Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom’s “plan for California’s economic future,” whose recommendations relied, to some extent, on input from Brookings.
Brookings was obviously promoting the report strenuously, and was well prepared for loads of interviews. Its advice will reflect its own priorities and should be checked against other points of view. The Institute is quite clear, however, that it found a “mixed picture” where green jobs are concerned. It also is clear that its report has numerous limitations and discusses them, as well as its methodology, at length:
The clean economy remains an enigma: hard to assess. Not only do “green” or “clean” activities and jobs related to environmental aims pervade all sectors of the U.S. economy; they also remain tricky to define and isolate—and count.
If the Bay Citizen was too dour, though, some of its competitors were too optimistic. The headline on a short, simplistic USA Today articleread, “Green jobs are scoring greener salaries; Pay and hiring are up in booming clean-tech sector,” as if that were the case nationwide. A piece in the Chicago Tribune made the “seminal” study seem a little more end-all-be-all than it actually is. During an interview with Platts Energy Week Brookings’ Muro freely admitted the data will continue to evolve. CNBC.com was more circumspect, and Bryan Walsh’s column for Time was more comprehensive.
It was nice to see the Brookings report, which is undoubtedly a useful piece of research, get so much coverage. It’s just a shame that so many news outlets carved off only the pieces most useful to them.