Over at Energy in Depth, Steve Everley posts a detailed rebuttal of Stanford professor Mark Jacobson’s widely-cited study, which claims that building a 100% renewable U.S. energy system will more than justify the costs. Even if we care little about the potential climate and air quality benefits, Jacobson and his allies contend, we should demand a rapid transition away from conventional (fossil and nuclear) energy, because that will create millions of jobs.
Everley summarizes the views of other researchers who argue that Jacobson underestimates the cost and feasibility of replacing fossil and nuclear energy with wind, solar, geothermal, and other renewable technologies. But he also makes an original contribution to the debate.
Everley shows that according to Jacobson’s own data, transitioning to a 100% renewable energy system by 2050 would destroy more than 3.7 million permanent jobs. That exceeds by more 1.1 million the 2.6 million permanent jobs Jacobson estimates would be created.
Source: Mark Jacobson
The proper goal of economic policy is to foster wealth creation, not job creation. Consider, for example, that replacing mechanized agriculture with subsistence agriculture would create lots of farm labor jobs, but it would also produce lots of poverty, hunger, sickness, and death.
Nonetheless, when renewable-energy advocates claim their agenda is “about jobs,” examining the net employment impacts of their schemes is fair game. See, for example, economist Gabriel Calzada’s study finding that Spain’s renewable energy subsidies destroyed about 2.2 jobs for every 1 job created.
Everley’s entire post is worth reading. Below is a summary in his own words.
Green activists who want to ban fossil fuels have repeatedly cited a study from Stanford professor Mark Jacobson, which they claim shows 100% renewables will lead to millions of new, high-paying jobs. The director of Gasland has even made it a center point of his “grassroots” campaign. The only problem? Buried deep in the study’s supporting data is a chart that shows nearly 4 million permanent job losses as a result of transitioning to 100% renewables.
Interestingly, the only way this transition – which many experts have suggested is not based in reality, including famous climate scientist James Hansen – could be considered a “job creator” is if you include temporary construction jobs. This isn’t to suggest that those are somehow unimportant, but it’s notable because the same environmental groups who have cited the Stanford study (Sierra Club, 350.org, etc.) were some of the loudest critics of “temporary” jobs associated with Keystone XL. In fact, environmentalist Bill McKibben even suggested it was a “lie” to use temporary jobs as justification for saying Keystone XL was a job creator. He claimed that only renewable energy would create “real jobs.”
In any event, the environmental groups who support a transition to 100% renewables – and who have cited Jacobson’s study – are actually advocating for a plan that would put 3.8 million American men and women out of work. Even if you include the long-term jobs that the transition would create, the net impact would still be a loss of about 1.2 million jobs. That’s not a separate assessment or critical “spin,” either; it’s on a chart pulled directly from the study that the environmental groups are citing.