NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 30, 2006

Twenty states have set standards that require utilities to obtain some of their power from "renewable" resources, in the hope that they might reduce some of the global warming caused by CO2 emissions and create new jobs, says Robert Michaels, an adjunct scholar with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

But even if all the nations that signed the Kyoto Protocols treaty meet the sacrifices of full compliance, the world would end up only a tenth of a degree cooler, says Michaels.  And if that big an effort gets no results, state and local government policies can only be empty gestures.

Further, if renewables don't help much with global warming, proponents still contend the nation will benefit from all the new jobs from building and operating facilities.  However, this line of thinking has several flaws, says Michaels:

  • The money to pay these newly employed workers is unavailable for spending by consumers or investment by businesses.
  • Eventually, workers who used to produce those goods move to other jobs, possibly after a spell of unemployment.
  • Electricity will be expensive; it takes skilled people to build and operate a megawatt of capacity, and more of them for renewable facilities than conventional ones.
  • For example, it takes about three solar generators or windmills to achieve the same dependability as a single gas-burning generator, hence three times more jobs.

It is easy to invent policies that create lots of jobs, says Michaels.  Just make delivery trucks illegal and create work for human porters, or hire people to shatter windows in homes and businesses and create a boon in the glass making industry.  However, it wastes the skills and services of a labor force that could have produced things that people really wanted, just like a renewables policy.

Source: Robert Michaels, "'Renewable' Electricity: Creating Jobs and Destroying Wealth," Human Events, August 30, 2006

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