You are here

The Green Jobs Scam – And Confusion

Op-Eds & Articles

Title

The Green Jobs Scam – And Confusion

Op-ed in The DC Examiner

With the massive $787-billion stimulus bill including provisions to
encourage the creation of “green jobs,” Americans deserve an honest
appraisal of how such green jobs will work. So far, they aren’t getting
it.

In fact, a recent statement by Al Gore shows just how
much Americans are being misled on this issue. Green jobs are a shell
game, and we’re falling for it. In the Financial Times, on February 17,
Gore, in an op ed co-authored with United Nations Secretary General Ban
Ki-Moon, asserts that, “In the US, there are now more jobs in the wind
industry than in the entire coal industry.”

But as Roger
Pielke Jr of the University of Colorado points out, there is something
wrong there. In November 2008, the coal industry generated 155 million
megawatt-hours of electricity, while wind generated only 1.3 million
megawatt-hours. If wind really does employ more people than coal, it is
doing so at a huge cost to American efficiency, productivity, and
competitiveness.

Of course, the wind industry does not
employ more people. Gore and Ban were flat out wrong in their
assertion, which should make one question any assertions in Gore’s An
Inconvenient Truth, or any U.N. document, for that matter.

As
the Christian Science Monitor found out, the figure comes from an
apples-and-oranges comparison. An environmentalist blog had reported
that the wind industry employed 85,000 people and the coal industry
just 81,000.

But the wind industry figure represented jobs
as “varied as turbine component manufacturing, construction and
installation of wind turbines, wind turbine operations and maintenance,
legal and marketing services, and more,” while the coal industry figure
represented just coal miners.

Comparing apples to apples,
the coal industry probably employs over 1.4 million people-and those
workers are still over seven times as productive as the wind energy
workers.

Moreover, when considering how much of the current
boom in renewable energy is fueled by subsidies, it becomes clear that
a large number of those wind industry jobs are temporary-engaged in the
manufacture of parts for and construction of new wind farms. Meanwhile,
we have seemingly called a halt to the construction of new coal-fired
power plants, just when the nation is facing a likely power generation
shortage.

This problem is highlighted in a report from, of
all people, The Sierra Club and the Teamsters union (among others).
“High Road or Low Road?” reveals that, “low pay is not uncommon” in
green industries, that “wage rates at many wind and solar manufacturing
facilities are below the national average,” and suggests that wages for
workers employed in the “green building” industry are also far lower
than those of union members in other sectors. Their proposed solution
is to unionize these
industries, but remember just how unproductive they are even at these
low wages. Replacing a coal job with a “green job” is likely to be a
net loss to the economy, meaning further unemployment down the chain.

Other
nations have already started down this road. The German government
found that green jobs could only benefit the economy as long as the
country remained a net exporter of green technology. The finding in
“High Road or Low Road?” that “some U.S. wind and solar manufacturers
have already begun to offshore production of components destined for
U.S. markets to low-wage havens such as China and Mexico” should
therefore be sobering for green jobs proponents.

A
forthcoming study from Dr Gabriel Calzada of the Instituto Juan de
Mariana in Spain reveals an even greater problem. For every green job
created in Spain, 3.9 jobs have been lost as a result throughout the
economy. The author calls them “subprime jobs,” with good reason.

When
America is in recession, the last thing we can afford to do is destroy
more jobs than we create in the name of “stimulus.” The American people
deserve to hear the truth about “green jobs.” Unfortunately, as long as
Al Gore and his allies continue to have the loudest bullhorns, they
won’t.

Iain Murray is Director of Projects and Analysis and
Senior Fellow in Energy, Science and Technology at the Competitive
Enterprise Institute and author of The Really Inconvenient Truths, from
Regnery publishing.