Green Jobs or Gangrene?

Congress plans to make this “the mother of all climate weeks.” Linking to Earth Day, lawmakers plan multiple hearings, climaxing with an appearance by Al Gore, apparently standing in for Mother Earth herself.  

Green jobs will be the theme — and the threat.  

Doubtless we’ll hear frightening tales of impending eco-disaster.  But will we hear about an equally scary fact–the tremendous job losses if the Waxman-Markey “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009” should pass?

Zealous environmentalists say they’ll plant seedlings of new green jobs.  But they will kill more jobs than they plant.  And their much-ballyhooed and federally-subsidized green-collar jobs may not even pay well.

We should learn from Europe’s experience with renewable energy mandates and cap-and-trade laws.  A new university study from Madrid concluded that, over the last eight years, for every green job these policies created, Spain lost 2.2 regular jobs.  And only 1 in 10 of their new green jobs is permanent.

Here in America, a Heritage Foundation economic study of proposed CO2 (carbon dioxide) regulations projects net losses of about 800,000 jobs each year — even after giving credit for creation of green jobs.  Cumulative losses in manufacturing jobs could reach 3 million.  .

The loss of old jobs is no accidental byproduct of the legislation.  The central objective is to replace fossil fuels (and their jobs) with renewable energy sources.  (They won’t even consider clean nuclear energy.)  Affordable energy must be killed off because renewable energy is too expensive to consumers; government is the designated hit man to get rid of competitors.  Affordable energy is to be taxed and regulated into the dustbin by mandating the ever-increasing use of renewable energy to generate electricity, and by dictating alternative fuel vehicles.

It’s because they destroy old jobs that “green jobs” equate to gangrene.  But what is a green job?  It’s all in the eye of the beholder.  Green Jobs are the political equivalent of school lunch “mystery meat.”

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Vice-President William Kovacs writes, “No one agrees on a definition — in fact, there is an overabundance of definitions… Currently, however, a green job is whatever anyone says it is… But without a definition, industry standards, and metrics by which to measure green job creation, there is no way to know whether the green jobs plan is successful.”

Advocates tend to stretch the definition.  As TIME magazine found, “There can be a strong temptation towards what might be called green-collar inflation, because the idea that environmentalism can actually add jobs is key to the new arguments for global warming action.”

Whether President Obama fulfills his carefully-phrased promise to create 5 million “green jobs” will be impossible to measure, just like his promise of 4 million jobs “created or saved” by his $787 billion stimulus spending.

How about the jobs lost?  No politician will admit to destroying jobs.  But as government restricts, taxes and regulates the output of carbon dioxide, jobs connected to fossil fuels will dwindle. Soaring energy prices will cause further job loss as they ripple through the economy.  

As Heritage’s David Kreutzer writes, “restricting CO2 cuts energy, income, and jobs.”  Last month, the deputy director of Obama’s National Economic Council, Jason Furman, admitted the annual costs of cap and trade to the economy could reach $250 billion and total $1.9 trillion by 2019.

Where will the most jobs be lost?  A Manufacturing Vulnerability Index from the Heritage Foundation projects it’s where coal is used for energy and where the most manufacturing occurs.  The top ten at-risk states are Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Kansas, Missouri, Utah and Tennessee.  

What green jobs can offset the job losses?  The biggest and best-paying group may be the 600,000 new government bureaucrats that the Institute for Energy Research projects will be needed to oversee the new system.

Private-sector jobs are a different story.  Washington Post columnist Brady Yauch writes thatVice-President Joe Biden “could be way off base” when he projected that green jobs would pay $50 an hour.  Yauch adds, “If the Obama administration decides to add stipulations to federal money — in effect, forcing green companies to accept unionization or implement wage requirements — then the political battle… will likely intensify.”

A recent report by Good Jobs First (a labor-environmentalist group) admits, "Green jobs are not automatically good jobs."  It finds that makers of wind and solar power components typically pay less than the average $18.88 an hour for manufacturing jobs and sometimes only $8.25 an hour.  Echoing the same theme used in government bailouts, Good Jobs First argues that because renewable energy depends heavily on taxpayer subsidies, then government should dictate the job details.  They want new climate laws to mandate higher pay and job protection — and promote unionization — of green jobs.

Those higher costs will make renewable energy even more expensive than it is already.  The New York Times recently reported that wind-generated electricity already costs 50% more than power from fossil fuels, and solar-generated electricity costs two to three times more than wind power.

Perhaps someday the folly of environmental extremism will end and Earth Day will be celebrated differently.  Van Jones, author of The Green Collar Economy, admits the movement has been wrong before.  He says, “Government-mandated and subsidized ethanol from corn will go down in history as the ‘Iraq war’ of environmental solution."

Meantime, one Heritage Foundation scholar has a brilliant, albeit tongue-in-cheek proposal for a healthy, popular and green transportation policy.  “Mr. President,” suggests J.D. Foster, “give rickshaws a chance.”

You can even paint them green.