June 14, 2011

The Green Jobs Fantasy

Joblessness haunts the Obama administration. The stimulus was the most spectacular flop of recent history. Yet the president, as he demonstrated in North Carolina Monday, knows no other way.

Democrats are often scornful of Republicans for being “agenda driven” or “ideological.” If they are in a particularly scornful mood, they’ll throw in something about conservatives being “anti-science” or failing to pursue “fact-based” policies.

Joblessness haunts the Obama administration. The stimulus was the most spectacular flop of recent history. Yet the president, as he demonstrated in North Carolina Monday, knows no other way.

Democrats are often scornful of Republicans for being “agenda driven” or “ideological.” If they are in a particularly scornful mood, they’ll throw in something about conservatives being “anti-science” or failing to pursue “fact-based” policies.

They cannot see the log in their own eye. This administration is surely among the most ideologically blinkered in memory – even self-destructively so. The president traveled to an LED factory in North Carolina on Monday to play his familiar green-jobs tune.

Meanwhile, his Environmental Protection Agency has issued new rules on air pollution standards. Though the White House must pray daily for a boost in employment numbers, the EPA is forging ahead with a rule strictly limiting the pollutants that coal-fired power plants may emit – a job killer. The regulation will be the most expensive in the agency’s history – and the results are already beginning to be felt.

American Electric Power, one the largest utilities in the United States, announced that it will close five coal plants, costing 600 jobs, and spend between $6 and $8 billion in capital investments over the next decade to comply with the new 946-page EPA rule. Those costs will be passed on to consumers of electricity, who will see prices rise between 10 and 35 percent, according to the company.

Recall that in 2008, candidate Obama told the San Francisco Chronicle about his plans to combat climate change: “So, if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can – it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”

He added that though the industry would protest that he was “destroying the economy,” he wasn’t worried because he had the golden tongue.

“If you can’t persuade the American people that, yes, there is going to be some increase in electricity rates on the front end, but that over the long term, because of combinations of more efficient energy usage, changing light bulbs and more efficient appliance, but also technology improving how we can produce clean energy, the economy would benefit.”

The president no longer admits that his administration’s policies will increase energy prices, preferring to spin fantasies about millions of “green jobs.” But as Politico reports, “Nearly three years into Obama’s presidency, the White House can’t point to much solid evidence that significant numbers of Americans are scoring the green jobs the president has been touting.”

Nor will they, because green jobs are a chimera. The numbers touted by the administration – Obama claimed that he would create 5 million green jobs in 10 years – are plucked out of thin air. The administration claims that 225,000 green jobs were either created “or saved” by $80 billion in stimulus spending. But that escape hatch phrase – “or saved” – prevents any kind of serious accounting. Besides, as Ed Morrissey of Hot Air calculates, if those numbers were accurate, it would mean a $355,555.56 taxpayer subsidy per green job.

The president’s ideological commitment to the idea of green jobs seems impervious to evidence. In 2009, he worried that other countries were sprinting past us in this promising field:

“And think of what’s happening in countries like Spain, Germany and Japan, where they’re making real investments in renewable energy. They’re surging ahead of us … This isn’t because they’re smarter than us or work harder than us … It’s because their governments have harnessed their people’s hard work and ingenuity with bold investments – investments that are paying off in good, high-wage jobs.”

It’s true that Spain has pursued the sort of policies Obama favors, but far from inaugurating a new green-technology era, Spain is floundering. According to the American Enterprise Institute, since 2000, Spanish taxpayers have spent $771,000 per job for each green job created. And each green job has been purchased at the cost of 2.2 jobs lost in other areas of the economy. Spain, its government close to insolvency, has been forced to reverse course, slashing subsidies for wind and solar power. Germany, too, whose citizens have paid 7.5 percent more for energy since the green subsidies were introduced, is reducing support for green sources of energy.

But Obama, because he is who he is, cannot respond to these realities. He’s too wedded to the idea of “governments … harnessing their people’s hard work and ingenuity” toward ends that he and his ideological fellow travelers approve. The 2012 election will turn on questions like: Do Americans want to be “harnessed” or set free?


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