The View From 1776
Thursday, December 10, 2009
From the lofty heights of their ivory towers, state planners see only positive effects associated with Obama’s push for green jobs. Viewed up close, where the rubber meets the road, the mirage clears to reveal a Three-card Monte scam.
Read the Washington Times op-ed piece by Pete Geddes and H. Sterling Burnett.
The Obama administration’s green jobs program simply shifts wealth from businesses, taxpayers and consumers to politically favored uses. Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas W. Elmendorf noted, “The net effect [of a green jobs policy] ... would likely be some decline in employment during the transition. ... The fact that jobs turn up somewhere else for some people does not mean there aren’t substantial costs borne by people, communities, firms and affected industries.”
The Obama administration has cited studies from the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the American Solar Energy Society, the Center for American Progress and the United Nations Environment Program to support its claims that green investments will provide millions of new jobs. These analyses share a number of flaws:
(1) They confuse efficient and inefficient production.Productivity is the output per unit of input. Producing the same amount of a good with fewer inputs makes it more affordable, freeing labor, natural resources, equipment and capital for other uses. This improves a country’s economic welfare.
Mr. Obama’s green jobs program turns this on its head, favoring technologies that employ large numbers of people over technologies that use labor efficiently. For example, according to the United Nations Environment Program, solar energy requires 9 times as much labor per megawatt of energy generated as natural gas, and 9 times as many workers per megawatt of energy as coal. No wonder, solar energy costs 3 to 5 times as much per megawatt as electricity from natural gas or coal.
(2) Many of the jobs “created” by government subsidies will not be filled by the unemployed but by workers shifting from one job to another. For instance, proposed global warming legislation threatens to shutter a number of fossil-fuel power plants while boosting employment at wind and solar facilities.
Moving engineers from traditional power plants to renewable energy facilities should not count as new jobs creation. Finally, these studiesonly examine jobs created by the government programs, ignoring the jobs destroyed by higher energy prices and the taxes to pay for the increased spending.
Experience in Europe, which has taken the lead in green job creation, confirms that this is an economic shell game. For example, according to a study of Spain’s renewable energy initiatives, the Spanish government created about 50,000 green jobs, but as a result about 110,000 other jobs were lost.