Biofuels GE's Jeffrey Immelt to lead Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness

Published on January 23rd, 2011 | by Tina Casey


President Obama Cooks Up the Ultimate Green Job for GE’s Jeffrey Immelt

January 23rd, 2011 by  

GE's Jeffrey Immelt to lead Obama's Council on Jobs and CompetitivenessFor those of us interested in green jobs, there’s only one thing better than getting the green job of your dreams, and that’s getting yourself in a position to create thousands – if not millions – of green jobs for everybody else. That’s where GE chief Jeffrey Immelt finds himself today, having been tapped to lead President Obama’s new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Just one little problem…where will all the green jobs go, here or overseas?

GE and Jobs Overseas

The initial reaction to President Obama’s announcement has been mixed, mainly due to GE’s past record of outsourcing jobs.  However, if you go back to more recent history, in 2009 you’ll find Immelt admitting that too much outsourcing was a mistake that hurt the U.S. economy, and calling for a domestic manufacturing revival to get us out of the doldrums. That puts him squarely in line with Obama’s call for an economy “fueled by what we invent and what we build.”

Obama and Green Jobs

When Obama talks about inventing and building, that’s where the green jobs come in – for U.S. workers. His Administration has dedicated hundreds of millions in Recovery Act spending to green jobs in the U.S., along with initiatives from federal agencies. Just a few examples:  a nationwide program to install biogas facilities at livestock farms, a program to reclaim millions of acres of brownfields for clean energy, a web of next-generation battery plants in the Rust Belt to serve the emerging electric vehicle market, and the funding of ARPA-E to stimulate transformational energy innovations that lead to more green jobs.

GE and Green Jobs

All of this federal activity dovetails with new developments coming out of GE since 2009. In the summer of 2009, GE announced plans to develop an all electric net-zero home with solar and wind power. Last summer the company helped put up $200 million in prize money to solicit entries in its “Ecomagination Challenge” to help get new smart grid technology moving in the U.S. GE has also teamed up with a U.S. wind power company to get smart grid-ready micro wind turbines into more homes and businesses.

Green Jobs: One Little Problem…

Now, back to that one little problem. To get the domestic green jobs  ball moving over the past couple of years, President Obama had enormous help from a relatively cooperative Congress. Given the reluctance of many new members of Congress to move forward on green jobs, that kind of assist can’t be taken for granted any more. In that case, GE and other U.S./global companies will just start taking their money and their green jobs overseas again.

…Or Maybe Not Such a Problem After All

In that context, the choice of Jeffrey Immelt to head the economic advisory board has all the markings of a deeper strategy looking forward to the 2012 election year, and that is to rally more clean tech companies to help fund the campaigns of legislators and candidates who support the Obama administration’s green jobs policies. GE represents the kind of A-list powerhouse needed to counterbalance the millions put up by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the oil industry’s Koch brothers, among others, to elect legislators who are opposed to domestic green jobs creation. So fasten your seatbelts, the next couple of years are going to be… well, interesting.

Image: GE stove by Mykel roventine on

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Jason Shepard

    I’ve been fighting against Obama for a while now due to his refusal to secure the border, enforce the federal laws, and support the states in their fight to retain sovereignty. The problem is that the Republican candidates are against everything else I believe in, such as these Green Jobs programs that Obama has put forward. As a student of Sustainable Enterprise Management and Environmental Studies, I feel pressured to support Obama and his obviously good environmental policies and the progress we’ve made on behalf of LGBT persons. But, I still find myself torn at his obvious distaste for Americans by refusing to assure our safety by securing our borders and ensure our jobs by taking them away from illegal immigrants. I’m at a loss as to what I’m going to do in 2012 and I may still be in this predicament come that time. In the meantime, however, I am going to support wholeheartedly the policies that produce a sounder environment and equal rights no matter who it is that enacts those policies. Thank you, Tina, for a well-written article.

    • Anonymous

      You might want to educate yourself regarding the additional boarder agents that President Obama has assigned during the last three years. You might also want to check the number of illegal aliens which have been deported.
      As for “our jobs”, have you checked out how things are working out in Georgia where they implemented very strict anti-illegal immigrant laws? Are you up to speed how farmers have watched their crops rot because Americans are not willing to work that sector of “our jobs”?

      We need better immigrant worker laws. We need a way for people to come to the country and do the work that Americans don’t want to do at the prices we can afford to pay. (Make wages for farm workers “$20/hour with benefits” and our farms will go broke. We’ll simply import our food from countries with lower labor costs.)

      Problem is, we can’t get decent immigrant labor laws with this set of Republican knuckle-heads sitting in Congress. They have staked out such an extreme position that they are not capable of rational discussion and problem solving. These people are the tantruming two-year-old laying in the grocery store floor and holding their breath until they turn blue.
      Vote them out.

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  • Great article Tina! Hopefully Congress will be able to bypass the Republican obstructionism and pass some real green jobs legislation in the 112th session of Congress. Keep up the great writing and coverage.

  • Great-looking move & great piece. While there are always hesitations with such a big move, this looks like an interesting and perhaps critical part of a larger clean energy and green jobs strategy. Thanks for the excellent coverage, Tina.

  • John Evans

    This is nothing but crony capitalism. Check out Spain and the cost of green jobs. There the initiative cost how many jobs for every green job created? Is 8 the official number? Immelt is a master at using the government to create business for GE. (I own the stock) Great for stockholders bad for the taxpayers. Ethanol any one? Is this more of the same?

    • Tina Casey

      Thank you, John. Industry subsidies are a fact of life. As a taxpayer I’d rather see my subsidies go to safer forms of sustainable energy that help improve communities(or at least, doesn’t wreck them) rather than to mountaintop mining and other destructive, high-risk (Gulf oil spill, etc.) fuel harvesting industries.

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