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A recent New York Times article describes how new manufacturing jobs in the renewable energy sector are making up for the decline in traditional manufacturing jobs.
This phenomenon closely parallels what is happening in the chemical industry, where traditional petro-chemical jobs are being replaced by openings in the renewable chemicals sector.
The chemical industry used to be one of the largest exporting industries in the country, with some of the highest paying jobs. But now, many of those jobs have moved overseas. Natural gas pumped from the gulf coast created tremendous employment in Texas and Louisiana where it was converted at integrated refineries into commodity and specialty chemicals that were shipped around the country to downstream industries — such as textiles, coatings, rubber and polymers — that have all moved overseas following cheaper oil and labor.
Today green chemicals are being developed from feedstocks — including vegetable oils, corn and biomass — that are grown and harvested in the Midwest. Bio-refinery plants are being built throughout the country to convert the feedstocks into fuels and chemicals and former textile facilities are being revitalized and repurposed in order to convert these bio-based chemicals into valuable new growth for our economy.
What do you think about this issue? Do you have examples of how this phenomenon is affecting you or people you know? Post them in the comment section.
— K’Lynne Johnson