Green jobs go into the red

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September 8, 2011, 12:05 pm
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(NECN/CNN: Lisa Sylvester) - The president has tapped energy-efficient technology as the industry of the future. But, as green companies get deep into the red, and can't make payroll, many are wondering what went wrong.

More than 1,000 workers were shown the door at Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturer in Fremont, CA. The company filed for bankruptcy, and its employees had no warning.

"It came as a bit of a surprise that it was a 100 percent layoff.” Dave McFarland said.

The situation is a far cry from last year, when President Obama toured the facility and touted green jobs as the wave of the future.

"We are poised to generate countless new jobs, good-paying middle-class jobs, right here in the United States of America." President Obama said.

The president, while campaigning in 2008, had a lofty goal: 5 million jobs created in alternative energy fields. Critics say that promise has fallen flat, despite millions in subsidies and loans pumped into the industry.

"I think green jobs as a solution to our economic problems have been way oversold.” David Kreutzer of Heritage Foundation said.

“We've created some green jobs in some industries for some period of time but through heavy subsidies, when subsidies stop, those green jobs stop.  So it's not a solution to an economic problem."

Solyndra received a $535 million loan guaranteed by U.S. taxpayers as part of the stimulus package. Now, the company cannot pay back the loan, and the government will now have a hard time recovering the money.

Spectrawatt, received a $500,000 grant in 2009, also from the federal stimulus fund, to improve solar cells. That company also filed for bankruptcy late last month. So where are the green jobs that were promised?

"Well you could take a look at one aspect of clean energy jobs, you could always look at one company or one country example. “ Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary, said.

“I like to take a look at biofuels, for example. Nobody is doing a better job with that than the United States.  I'm very, very, very confident that the President has right vision on this.  I have seen it in home state of Iowa.  I'm convinced it's going to continue to work for the United States."

Vilsack points to a Brookings Institute study that says 2.7 million people now work in green industries. But with zero job growth in August, green is no silver bullet.

The Obama administration says it remains committed to helping these clean energy companies grow. 

Because many of these companies are starting from scratch, jobs aren't always immediate and can take years.

Tags: President Obama, economy, jobs, green jobs, work, Lisa Sylvester, energy-efficient technology, Solyndra
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