For all the hullabaloo over fancy “green jobs” programs, the traditional “brown energy” sector has created the most actual jobs during the recession. This should hardly be surprising to anyone who’s been following Via Meadia, but sometimes it helps to have a visual representation of the situation to illustrate just how clear the data really is. A new map at Slate helps to visualize the situation.
In the map above, states that have lost jobs are colored red, states that have gained jobs are colored blue, and states that have gained a significant number of jobs are colored brown. Although the map was originally intended to point out Obama’s weakness in swing states, it is more interesting for what it reveals about brown job growth. North Dakota, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Indiana, and Kentucky all figured among the select group of states with relatively fast job growth.
This is an extremely diverse group of states, with divergent demographic, political, and economic profiles, but what they all have in common is an unusually large concentration of brown energy projects. Texas and North Dakota have traditionally been brown energy job states; the development of new extraction techniques, most notably fracking, has allowed states like Kentucky, Colorado and Indiana to join them. Their efforts to forge ahead with boring, old-fashioned “dirty” energy are making a killing and creating high wage blue collar jobs.
It looks increasingly as if a significant chunk of America’s prosperity for the next generation will be linked to brown jobs: gas, oil and coal, getting them out of the ground, refined into usable forms, and used as fuel and feedstock for industry. This is an unexpected but welcome gift of nature’s bounty; we need to manage the environmental costs of this extraction and use of these resources, but use them we must.