NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Focus on Green Jobs Is Misplaced

September 14, 2012

For a better part of the last decade, President Obama and other Democrats have been hyping the potential of green energy. On top of its environmental benefits, lawmakers promise that the clean energy industry will add millions of jobs to the slow growing economy. However, there have been many difficulties in trying to create these jobs because of contradictory definitions and backward policies that inhibit clean energy growth, says Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

The Obama administration's attempt at creating sustainable green jobs has resulted in failure:

  • Obama promised to create 5 million jobs over the next 10 years during his 2008 presidential campaign.
  • However, the Labor Department has only counted 3.1 million jobs.
  • Moreover, $500 million in grants were given under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to research and train for green jobs.
  • Predictably, the grants had a low success rate with only 5,400 of the 53,000 (10.2 percent) people retaining their new jobs.
  • Furthermore, the Pentagon's budget is poised to be reduced by $260 billion over the next five years.
  • Despite this, the military is pursuing a $510 million program to develop new biofuels for ships and tanks.
  • The biofuels will cost $27 per gallon rather than the $3.50 a gallon for conventional oil.

Green jobs are defined by the Bureau for Labor Statistics as jobs in businesses that produce goods or services that benefit the environment or as jobs in which workers' duties involve making their establishment's production more environmentally friendly.

However, this definition is expansive and allows the administration to simply slap the green label on any old jobs. One example of this is that installing a low-flow toilet counts as a green job, whereas putting a regular toilet counts as a regular job, despite the fact that they are performed by the same person.

Many proponents of green energy claim that America needs to invest in this new industry to keep pace with China's rapid growth. But China's energy policies incentivize the development of solar panels and wind turbines, which are exported to America and Europe. As of 2008, China still had 70 percent of its energy from coal despite their increased clean energy production.

The federal government should place the emphasis on creating all types of jobs rather than putting priority on creating nebulous green jobs.

Source: Diana Furchtgott-Roth, "The Focus on Green Jobs Is Misplaced," MarketWatch, September 6, 2012.


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