The Greenwash Brigade

Greenwash alert: Minnesota jobs policy

Janne K. Flisrand Nov 11, 2008

Yesterday, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty presented an extension of JOBZ (Job Opportunity Building Zones) to incorporate jobs related to renewable and clean energy.

This morning’s response from progressive think tank Minnesota 2020 is a quick poll titled “Greenwashing JOBZ” asking for readers’ opinions on the initiative.

For readers outside Minnesota, our popular Republican governor has long supported JOBZ. In essence, companies get tax breaks for creating jobs in economically-struggling mostly-rural areas of the state. The state auditor’s office found it a not-very-effective policy. Pawlenty has also put forth some ambitious energy policies, but lately he’s seemed to hold them at arm’s length, and as someone working in the area of energy efficiency, implementation has been lacking.

When I saw the poll title, I wondered: can anything can be greenwashed? Mostly, it’s a term applied to products, but policy? I went right back to the TerraChoice 6 Sins of Greenwashing.

Using their definitions, the claim works for me, although it’s a bit of an exaggeration.

(Note to self: How much do my preconceived opinions of the program and my assessment of Pawlenty’s commitment to energy initiatives color my evaluation?)

If you accept that JOBZ isn’t a success, the Sin of Irrelevance applies – paint over poor policy with green jobs. Green has nothing to do with JOBZ, and maybe we won’t notice whether it’s creating jobs or not if we’re thinking about GREEN.

The Sin of No Proof is a gimme — claims about future policy success lack proof by definition.

Is Minnesota 2020 stretching, calling this policy greenwashing? Is it impossible to tell until we can test the success or failure of the program years from now? Or, am I simply unable to see through my partisan preferences?

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