The Green Jobs Fumble

by Brian McGraw on August 19, 2011

in Blog

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Coming out of The New York Times of all places, “Number of Green Jobs Fails to Live Up to Promises.” Unsurprisingly, it has the green groups riled up.

A study released in July by the non-partisan Brookings Institution found clean-technology jobs accounted for just 2 percent of employment nationwide and only slightly more — 2.2 percent — in Silicon Valley. Rather than adding jobs, the study found, the sector actually lost 492 positions from 2003 to 2010 in the South Bay, where the unemployment rate in June was 10.5 percent.

Federal and state efforts to stimulate creation of green jobs have largely failed, government records show. Two years after it was awarded $186 million in federal stimulus money to weatherize drafty homes, California has spent only a little over half that sum and has so far created the equivalent of just 538 full-time jobs in the last quarter, according to the State Department of Community Services and Development.

The weatherization program was initially delayed for seven months while the federal Department of Labor determined prevailing wage standards for the industry. Even after that issue was resolved, the program never really caught on as homeowners balked at the upfront costs.

(Note that it took seven months, as in 210 days or almost 60% of a year, to figure out wage standards for an industry. Good enough for government work.)

This isn’t the first report on the green jobs fiasco. There are numerous reports of outrageous amounts of money spent “creating” very few jobs. There are reports of stimulus-receiving green-tech factories closing (or moving abroad), some after receiving praise from Obama himself.  Could the failure of promoting ‘green’-jobs have been predicted? Well, you could have looked at Spain, or Germany.

Finally, does the Times seem pessimistic on the results of the Brookings Institute study? Because that’s not the impression I got from reading certain other blogs, which loudly cheered the alleged 2.7 million green jobs. Upon closer inspection, it turns out that a large portion of those jobs are in fields not traditionally seen as representing the future of green-technology, such as waste management or mass transit services. It’s also worth noting that the ‘number of jobs saved or created’ should be secondary to the amount of wealth produced. The fewer workers necessary to produce this (again, contra the green blogs who snub the oil industry for its efficiency), the more workers freed up to focus on other parts of the economy.

It is rumored that President Obama is set to announce another attempt at job creation later this fall. Let us hope that he avoids the ‘not actually shovel ready’ green jobs approach and instead focuses on liberating the economy.

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