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By Juleyka Lantigua
As thousands of jobs are lost every day in this economic crisis, it’s time for the government and corporate America to start transforming traditional manufacturing jobs into green-collar jobs.

Simply put, a green-collar job contributes to the use and conservation of natural and existing resources and to reducing our reliance on fossil fuels like coal and oil, usually without a significant impact on the environment.

The most easily identifiable green jobs include manufacturing, installing and maintaining photovoltaic units (solar panels), harnessing the power of wind with windmills, and recycling and repurposing industrial materials. But there are many more jobs that fit this emerging labor category. Green roof installation and maintenance and HVAC retrofitting enable commercial and residential buildings to reduce their energy consumption while generating some of their own power.

The green-collar sector is a huge growth industry. Worldwide, businesses invested $117.2 billion in alternative energy in 2007, according New Energy Finance, a U.K. research company. Over 3,400 U.S. companies are in the solar energy business, including manufacturers, installers, distributors, developers and suppliers.

What we need is strong leadership from our elected officials—from the White House down to City Hall. The U.S. has the ability to join the ranks of industrialized nations like Germany, Sweden, and Norway who are at the forefront of the blossoming global green economy.

The global market for environmental products and services is projected to double from the current $1.37 trillion per year to $2.74 trillion by 2020, according to a 2008 report co-sponsored by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and several international labor organizations.

Germany, which leads Europe in many industrial areas, by 2030 will see its environmental technology sector quadruple to 16 percent of national industrial output, with green jobs surpassing the country's big machine tool and automotive industries. In China, another of our key global partners, green venture capital more than doubled to 19 percent of total investment in the last few years, according to the same UNEP report.

Obama intends to spend $150 billion over ten years on energy conservation and expanding our use of energy from the sun, wind and other renewable sources. One of his goals is to create 5 million new green jobs. These will be jobs that, by their very nature, will not be able to be outsourced, with a potential two million jobs created within two years in retrofitting alone, according to a University of Massachusetts study.

The number of under-insulated homes in the U.S. is nearly 80 million, according to estimates by Owens Corning Inc., an Ohio-based maker of insulation. A big part of Obama's plan is to weatherize homes, which would improve on their insulation and energy efficiency, thereby reducing power usage and costs. Doing so would also mobilize tens of thousands of unemployed construction workers who have seen their work fizzle during the economic downturn.

Many laid off workers—especially those coming from the automobile industry—already possess transferable skills. Michigan, whose 9.6 percent unemployment rate is the highest in the country, with its Green Jobs Initiative is quietly becoming a leader in attracting green companies, and will have a trained workforce ready to join the ranks due to the implosion of the automakers.

Our entire country will benefit from following the Rust State’s lead and going green.

"Juleyka Lantigua is a journalist and editor whose work appears in national newspapers and magazines. For more info visit:"

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