NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Green Jobs: Illusive and Costly

May 1, 2013

Americans, and the world, have been concerned about the environment for most of the latter half of the 20th century. The concern has resulted in significant environmental achievements that are cause for celebration.  While the improvements are beneficial to the environment, they have not brought the significant job growth promised by President Obama, says Kathleen Hartnett White, director of the Armstrong Center for Energy & the Environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Environmentalists have always envisioned green policies being the overriding principle of the economy. If the entire economy could be made into one environmentally-friendly machine, then the world would be a better place. These policies, which were the dream of presidential hopeful Al Gore, among many, are now being enacted by President Obama and other green elites.

  • President Obama promised that the federal government would create enough green jobs to replace the millions of jobs lost in the great recession of 2009 and 2010.
  • Funds authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 soon funneled toward green companies and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) was tasked with counting the green jobs created by these funds.
  • The BLS did tally more than 3 million jobs, but only after including school bus drivers, the Salvation Army and steel manufacturing, hardly "green" jobs.

Under Obama's sequester, the BLS program to count green jobs has been eliminated, noting the harsh reality that solar generation accounts for only 500 jobs and wind technologies account for only 2,700 jobs.

  • In the past few years, the largest amount of job growth has occurred in the industry most vilified by environmentalists, the oil and gas industry, which created more than a million jobs with average salaries several times the average wage.
  • The increase in oil and gas employment is the direct result of the free market, of the development of innovative technologies that American businesses have spent decades to create.
  • The government's foray into subsidizing green jobs has been and will continue to be a failure for the same reason the private market is a success: only the market and the demands of consumers can propel real sustainable change.

Source: Kathleen Hartnett White, "Green Jobs Versus Real Jobs," Texas Public Policy Foundation, April 22, 2013.


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