U.S. Green Economy a Global Leader, Generating $1.3 Trillion Annually

America’s green economy is a global leader, estimated to generate more than $1.3 trillion in revenue each year. That’s 16.5 percent of the global green economy, according to a new analysis by researchers at the University College London (UCL).

Published today (Oct. 15) in Palgrave Communications, the study found that nearly 9.5 million Americans, or roughly 4 percent of the workforce are employed by this green economy – which is broken into three categories:

  • Environmental – such as air pollution, biodiversity, recycling, waste management, water supply and environmental services
  • Low carbon – such as alternative fuels and vehicles, building technologies, energy management, carbon capture
  • Renewable energy – such as biomass, geothermal, hydropower, wind, solar photovoltaics and renewable energy consulting

Both the annual sales revenue of America’s green economy, along with the percentage of full-time employees have grown more than 20 percent from 2013 to 2016. The growth has sparked 1.5 million jobs in the green industry over this three-year span, while the coal industry lost some 37,000 jobs, based on data from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The sub-segments that experienced the largest growth (from 2015 to 2016) were renewable energy consulting, followed by building technologies and wind power.

A full breakdown is as follows:

Unique Data Collection

Rather than surveying businesses, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has done in the past when collecting data on America’s green economy, the UCL researchers took a different approach. They used estimates of sales revenue and employment across 24 economic sub-sectors in the environmental, low carbon and renewable energy categories.

By using transaction data from hundreds of private databases and real-world business transactions, the researchers were able to determine what fraction of a company’s sales are green. This bottom-up, transaction-based method has another benefit – it makes for easier comparison among different countries.

How the U.S. Can Remain a World Leader

As it stands today, the U.S. is the global leader, beating even China with a greater percentage of employment, as well as a higher sales revenue per capita in the green economy. However, the study notes that America’s lead may not last as other countries align national and state-level policies with green economic growth.

“In order to support the development of the green economy, the U.S. needs to focus its attention on designing appropriate economic, environmental and education policies,” lead author Dr. Lucien Georgeson said in a statement. “This should be supported by commissioning and publishing green economy data, which the U.S. federal government has not done since 2013.”


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