Show Your Work!

Fiona Harvey of the FT is one of the better journalists covering the environmental beat, but I’m afraid that is a bit like saying that someone is one of the better members of Congress. In this blog entry on green jobs she commendably raises some objections to the idea that “green jobs” can be a panacea, but then shows her own biases with an unsupportable assertion:

That said, the move to a low-carbon economy requires such major changes in the way the whole of the economy – from house building to vehicle manufacturing to recycling our rubbish to redesigning our cities – that it is sure to entail a large number of new jobs, which will almost certainly far outweigh the effects of any job losses.

Really? The Heritage Foundation’s analysis of green employment resulting from the weak CO2 restrictions proposed in last year’s Lieberman-Warner bill found a net reduction in American employment of some 900,000 jobs. A German government study found that green technology would only be a positive for employment as long as the country remained a net exporter of the technology, something bound to change as other countries usurped their comparative advantage. A Spanish study by the Instituto Juan de Mariana found that for each green job created in Spain, at least 2.2 “regular” jobs were lost (and also that thanks to the temporary nature of many green jobs, 40,000 such jobs will be lost this year).

Fiona’s assertion reminds me of this statement by Catherine Bennett in The Guardian, 2004:

In short, if we can rise to the challenge, the permanent abolition of the wheel would have the marvelously synergistic effect of creating thousands of new jobs – as blacksmiths, farriers, grooms and so on – at the same time as it conserved energy and saved the planet from otherwise inevitable devastation

The only difference is, Ms. Bennett was clearly joking.