The push for green collar jobs - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

The push for green collar jobs


MADISON (WKOW) -- Andrew Bangert is a busy man these days.  The master electrician for H&H Electric spends most of his time coordinating crews to solar panel projects around town.  He said he also makes sure each new employee is thoroughly trained on solar technology and installation procedures.

With recent increases in tax credits, the solar panel business is booming.  Finding the manpower to install them can be a challenge.

"It is a little bit more difficult to find a fine-toothed electrician that's willing to crawl on rooves," he said.  Although with three fulltime workers and three office staffers.

Bangert and his fellow workers are also supposedly wearing "green collars." The buzz phrase has been used by Presidential candidates all year.  Essentially, green collar workers are tradesmen that focus on environmental projects.

Democrat Barack Obama wants to create five million similar jobs with $150 billion dollars over ten years.

Republican John McCain's plan, according to his campaign website, is not as specific, but also urges more investment in new energy and technology industries.

A rally in Madison on Wednesday by the non-partisan 1-Sky campaign wanted voters to press the candidates even harder.

Spokesman John Stewart said his group is asking for "investments in things like job training programs to have people train to build houses that are more energy efficient."  As another example, he said new programs could also be used to train workers on wind tubrine manufacturing.

Although utilities are already building more windfarms, and smaller businesses like Madison's Community Car ride sharing program is hitting record subscribers, Stewart wants more investment by the next President.  He said that would be the only way to hit the group's target of reducing carbon emissions by 25-percent by the year 2020.

Sonya Newenhouse with the Madison Environmental Group largely agreed.  "I think the green business, it's still a nascent industry," she said at Wednesday's rally.  "So think about all other industries you can think of an how much support they've gotten along the way."

Meanwhile, 13 days before the election, Bangert will take advantage of his head start.  "As they say a rising tide raises all ships," said Bangert.  "Yes, I see more competition, but I'm also going to remain very busy for months out at this point."

To read the candidates' environmental platforms in their own words, go to our Vote 2008 section and look for links to the campaigns' websites. 

CLICK HERE to email Down to Earth story ideas to Carl Agnelly.

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