Friday, June 11, 2010

The Myth of Green Jobs

Although the Green movement has gained momentum within the US, it struggled to make the same progress in America as it had in Europe for one simple reason:  Economics.  While Americans were somewhat eager to embrace aspects of environmentalism, they were hesitant to believe everything, and even more hesitant to engage in policies that could harm the economy.  In order to change what would ultimately be a losing argument the Greens shifted arguments and focused on the potential economic boon of their policies, and thus the term "Green jobs" became commonplace.

The arguments are rather attractive, and even I agree with aspects of them.  They argue that going Green can help America achieve energy independence, help prevent global warming, and create desperately needed jobs. In the 08 election both parties picked up on this to one degree or another.  Democrats stayed focused on the environmental aspects of it, while Republicans merged it into current energy plans with McCain calling for an "all of the above" option.  Both sides admitted that the technology needed more worth, but other then that there never really seemed to be a downside.

However since then we've had access to new information.  A study from the King Juan Carlos University of Madrid found that Green energy is largely inefficient, expensive, and often kills more jobs then it saves, or exactly what you'd expect from something with the Green label:

Subsidizing renewable energy in the U.S. may destroy two jobs for every one created if Spain’s experience with windmills and solar farms is any guide.

For every new position that depends on energy price supports, at least 2.2 jobs in other industries will disappear, according to a study from King Juan Carlos University in Madrid.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2010 budget proposal contains about $20 billion in tax incentives for clean-energy programs. In Spain, where wind turbines provided 11 percent of power demand last year, generators earn rates as much as 11 times more for renewable energy compared with burning fossil fuels.

The premiums paid for solar, biomass, wave and wind power - - which are charged to consumers in their bills -- translated into a $774,000 cost for each Spanish “green job” created since 2000, said Gabriel Calzada, an economics professor at the university and author of the report.

The staggering cost of green jobs isn't something isolated to just Spain there's also Denmark:
  • The Danish government spent 90,000 to 140,000 per a wind energy job created
  • Only ten percent of the people employed by the wind industry held new jobs, the other ninety percent were old jobs that transferred over
  • The average clean energy energy employee contributed 10,000 less to the economy than the average Dane, resulting in a GDP $270 million less than it would of been had the employees NOT been clean energy
And Germany:
  • Wind energy costs three times as much as conventional, and solar eight times as much
  • Since 2000 the German government has spent over $101 billion in subsidies for clean energy that only makes up 7% of the nation's power 
  • The government has spent an average of $240,000 per a green job
And even America:

Yes, but getting these jobs is burning a hole in the national wallet. The problem is that even advocates like Obama concede that these programs are not very cost-effective in creating jobs.

Obama says the grants will create 17,000 cleantech jobs. Well, get out your calculator. $2.3 billion for 17,000 jobs equals $135,294 per job. (And that’s not including the eventual interest on this deficit spending). Those green jobs had better pay well over six figures to justify that expense.

Not to worry, the administration has a plan to solve this, too. It wants Congress to approve another $5 billion for “tens of thousands” more green jobs.

Although the Greens tried to present their case as one of pragmatism, the reality is that their cause is still highly ideological, and even borderline religious.  Numbers like these are staggering, but rather than admitting that and encouraging the continued development of more efficient green energy, they push forward as if we have some great moral imperative to adopt clean tech.

I, and most Americans, aren't against Green energy, but what we are against is crippling our economy in order to fulfill some ideological dream, and yet that is routinely what we get.  Take the stimulus which was filled with green and other liberal projects, cost a fortune, and failed to produce the numbers it said it would.  Indeed the numbers it did produce were strikingly similar to those above, with jobs in some areas costing in the hundreds of thousands per a job produced.

If Obama wants to help this economy - and himself - he should abandon such overly ideological policies.  .  Green Jobs, as of now, are a myth, and throwing money at a myth is as dangerous as it is insane. Until Green technology becomes efficient and affordable we would be better looking at conventional methods to solve today's problems.  Trying to force "being Green" on us will only continue to produce negative results.

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