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Green Energy Creates Jobs? Prove It

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Green energy equals job growth - you probably read it in a headline and assumed it was true.

With U.S. unemployment at 9.6%, Americans are looking for reasons to feel good about the direction the country is headed. Now that Google (GOOG) is backing the development of an offshore wind market and the United Steelworkers are saying that China's emerging alternative energy sector is taking U.S. jobs, green energy seems like it could jolt the job market.

The idea that green energy could create enough jobs to propel the economy is lacking a critical element: data. Other than the annual reports alternative-energy trade groups use to lobby the government, there has been little effort to study trends in green energy hiring.

That's about to change, but not overnight. The effort to show that green energy is bringing a noticeable number of jobs to the U.S. economy is just getting started, and it could be a few years before the data is reliable.

This year the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks every job created in the U.S., received money from the federal budget to study the green energy job market. Until results are released, Americans are taking a leap of faith when it comes to betting on green energy. And so far, progress in creating a new green economy has been spotty.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed last year allocated more than $80 billion to expanding renewable energy sources, improving the U.S. power grid and adding more eco-friendly cars to U.S. highways. The goal was also to create jobs.

Vice President Joe Biden's office recently released a report about Recovery Act programs that cited 100 key projects, including the 20-megawatt flywheel energy storage plant developed by Beacon Power (BCON) in Stephentown, N.Y. The project aims to add 20 construction jobs and 40 permanent jobs.

The same day Beacon Power touted its inclusion in the Biden report through a press release, the Nasdaq Stock Market informed the company that its shares might be delisted because they fell short of the $1 minimum bid price. Beacon Power shares, currently trading at 35 cents, haven't eclipsed the $1 mark in more than a year. Beacon Power said this week it was denied a second loan commitment from the federal government.

Wind power was another focus of the Biden report, even though 2010 has been one of the worst years on record for the U.S. land-based wind power market.
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