Fox News is attempting to gin up outrage over how the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated that there are over 3 million green jobs in the U.S. because it included bus drivers, janitors for solar facilities, and other workers. But the BLS was transparent in its definition, and its figures are consistent with previous studies on the clean economy.
In a hearing, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) chastised BLS' John Galvin for, among other things, counting mass transit jobs as green jobs. Fox has hyped the hearing even giving it "News Alert" treatment. Issa has been holding hearings about the fact that mass transit jobs are counted as green jobs for a while now. But it's not clear what's so outrageous: mass transit significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions and directly employs over 200,000 Americans.
Fox also echoed Issa's suggestion that it is faulty to count someone "sweeping the floor in a solar panel production facility" as a green job. However, as BLS' Galvin pointed out, "if you asked me for the number of health care jobs in the United States, I'll give you the employment from the health care industry." So of course, anyone employed by a solar company has a green job, according to the BLS' industry-based definition.
For this first report, if BLS classifies an industry as one that "may produce green goods and services," then employment in that industry "associated with the production of green goods and services" is classified as green. That explains why used merchandise store employees were classified as green jobs, and why in certain cases someone who pumps gas for a school bus or someone who is a lobbyist on environmental issues were classified as green jobs. BLS economist Rick Clayton clarified that if a school bus company has an employee that pumps gas from its own tanks, then that would count as a green job because it is a job in an industry that provides a green service. However, if you drive a bus up to a typical gas station, the gas station attendant would not be classified as a green job because the attendant does not work for industry that provides a green good or service. Similarly, by the definition that BLS used in this report, no one who works for an oil company, including an in-house lobbyist, would be classified as a green job. However, if a lobbying firm stated that it acts on behalf of the environment in response to a BLS survey, then a lobbyist at that firm could be classified as having a green job. BLS plans to do a second report based on an alternate definition.
BLS was completely transparent in its definition, describing it at length in its report, and even releasing the definition prior to conducting the study. By contrast, the oil and gas industry, represented by the American Petroleum Institute, is not transparent in its claims to support the jobs of 9.2 million Americans, making it not as easily subject to public mockery, as Philip Bump pointed out at Grist.
Mark Muro, an expert from the Brookings Institution, wrote that BLS drew on "an emerging definitional consensus and utiliz[ed] a high-quality survey-based technique" and that BLS' numbers are "broadly consistent" with other studies. The Brookings Institution found that there are around 2.7 million clean economy jobs, a figure which Brookings says did not include the other jobs that Fox and Issa mocked for being counted as green jobs: employees at shops that sell used merchandise, employees at bicycle shops, and lobbyists that cover environmental issues.
Nevertheless, Fox used this testimony to claim, "Acc[ording] to BLS, nearly everything is a 'green job'" and mock the effort to quantify green jobs:
- Monica Crowley: "I had some purified water this morning with my breakfast, so I think that qualifies me as holding a green job!" No.
- Neil Cavuto: "What about anyone who has read Green Eggs and Ham -- is that a green job?" No.
- Megyn Kelly: "What about if you just like the color green?" No.
It's rich to see Fox accusing the BLS of inflating green jobs, after their treatment of jobs from the Keystone XL pipeline. Fox hyped figures that included what the Washington Post described as a "seldom-used category known as 'induced' jobs that API says covers everything from valets to day-care providers, from librarians to rocket scientists." There were no Fox News alerts about the rocket scientist jobs created by Keystone XL, instead we got this: