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‘Green’ jobs in Biden’s infrastructure bill: What they could pay and how to be eligible

A priority of President Joe Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure and climate change bill, called "The American Jobs Plan," is to "tackle climate change with American jobs and American ingenuity," Biden said when he promoted his plan in Pittsburgh on March 31.

For instance, it includes $174 billion in spending to "win" the electric vehicle market globally. It also proposes spending $100 billion to "reenergize America's power infrastructure," which includes money to plug old oil and gas wells, to clean up abandoned mines and to build 10 facilities to demonstrate "carbon capture retrofits for large steel, cement, and chemical production facilities."

Spending authorized by the bill would "protect our community from billions of dollars of damage from historic super storms, floods, wildfires, droughts, year after year, by making our infrastructure more secure and resilient and seizing incredible opportunities for American workers and American farmers in a clean energy future," Biden said.

Here's a look at how many green jobs are going to be created, what kind of jobs they will be, how much they will pay and what you might need to get hired.

Millions of 'green' jobs could be created

Between 1 million and 1.2 million jobs per year would be generated in the energy efficiency and renewable energy space, by Biden's bill, according to Robert Pollin, economics professor and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. That includes jobs in wind energy, solar energy, making industrial buildings more energy efficient and in making high efficiency cars.

Though Pollin has not yet completed an analysis of Biden's proposal, he estimates that "the job creation figures for the American Jobs Plan are likely to be in the range of 25% to 30% percent of those of the THRIVE Agenda," a 10-year, $9.5 trillion congressional investment agenda put forward in a September 2020 resolution for which he has done extensive analysis.

Also important, while some jobs, like installing wind farms, are clearly "green" jobs, some jobs created by the Jobs Act, which are technically considered "infrastructure" jobs, will also benefit climate change goals — the Venn diagram of "green" jobs and "infrastructure" jobs overlaps.

For example, investments in the power grid are "needed to protect from catastrophic weather events, but also to allow us to move to renewable sources," says Robert E. Scott, a senior economist and director of trade and manufacturing policy research at nonprofit think tank Economic Policy Institute (EPI). Or better broadband internet access could make less commuting (and less carbon emissions) possible, he says.

But estimates from economists vary in predicting job creation by the Jobs Plan.

For instance, Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi estimates the economy would have, overall, only an additional 2.7 million jobs by 2030 if Biden's bill is enacted.

The variations depend on what economists predict the "economic return to public infrastructure" will be, says Zandi, including whether there will be a "negative impact of higher effective corporate tax rate" Biden proposes to pay for the plan and the "impact of higher deficits and debt on interest rates," he says.

'Excellent jobs for non-college-educated workers'

The "bulk" of the jobs created by the American Jobs Plan "will be in the construction, manufacturing, transportation, distribution and healthcare industries," says Zandi.

And that tracks for green jobs, too. Manufacturing jobs, including those in clean energy, will "generate large numbers of excellent jobs for non-college-educated workers," says Scott. "Those are the people who've been left behind for the last 20 years."

Manufacturing and construction jobs pay well, "have excellent benefits in terms of medical and retirement," and "certainly they tend to be more stable" than other jobs that do not require a college degree, Scott says, like jobs in service industries, for example.

Currently, jobs in manufacturing and construction tend to pay $29 to $31 per hour on average in wages and another $8 to $10 per hour in benefits, while service sector jobs pay an average of $26 an hour in wages and $7 per hour in benefits, Scott says. That translates to an average annual salary of $60,070 plus benefits for manufacturing and construction and an average of $54,475 plus benefits for service sector jobs, Scott says.

It's worth noting that average salaries for the service sector are broad-based and include service jobs in law, accounting and management. "Wages in the much more numerous restaurant, retail trade and travel and tourism industries are much lower," Scott says.

There is a caveat however: In construction and manufacturing, "new hires tend to be paid less, and this is something that's happened more and more of the last 10 to 15 years," he says.

As for specific "green jobs," according to Pollin, a job in the wind energy sector has an average annual compensation of $80,300; a job in solar energy has an average salary of $74,500; and a job in geothermal energy has an average annual salary of $88,200. In energy efficiency, a job doing building retrofits pays an average of $64,500; making industrial efficiencies pays an average of $81,500; and a job in high-efficiency autos pays $89,400 on average, he says.

What qualifications do you need to get one of these new green jobs?

For jobs like manufacturing or construction, some training would be necessary, Zandi says.

"A majority of the jobs probably will not require a college-education, but they do require skills, and thus the funds in the [American Jobs Plan] for training will be important," Zandi tells CNBC Make It.

Indeed, those who have more training will get paid more, he says.

Often the training comes as a partnership between a union and a local community college or with an apprenticeship that can last between three and five years, Scott says. With training, a construction worker can be a professional, journeyman carpenter, bricklayer, plumber, pipe fitter or electrician, he says.

"You can make $100,000 a year as a journeyman plumber," according to Scott.

The American Jobs Plan will also generate jobs for those who are college-educated, Scott says.

"Manufacturing is the biggest employer of scientists and engineers in the private economy," he says.

Manufacturers "employ two-thirds of scientists and engineers, they do two-thirds of research and development. They also hire and pay managers well and they employed lots of architects, engineers, designers who might not be officially in the manufacturing industry but they may be consultants," according to Scott.

See also:

How Bill Gates' company TerraPower is building next-generation nuclear power

60 largest banks have invested $3.8 trillion in fossil fuels since the Paris Agreement

This Google X spin-off is offering a pathway to heat and cool your home with clean energy

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