Thursday, June 25, 2009

The myth of a green jobs boom

George Will cites a libertarian Spanish professor's research to show what a turn towards subsidizing green jobs has done for employment in Spain. It's not an auspicious example for us to be trying to follow.
The Spanish professor is puzzled. Why, Gabriel Calzada wonders, is the U.S. president recommending that America emulate the Spanish model for creating "green jobs" in "alternative energy" even though Spain's unemployment rate is 18.1 percent -- more than double the European Union average -- partly because of spending on such jobs?

Calzada, 36, an economics professor at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, has produced a report which, if true, is inconvenient for the Obama administration's green agenda, and for some budget assumptions that are dependent upon it.

Calzada says Spain's torrential spending -- no other nation has so aggressively supported production of electricity from renewable sources -- on wind farms and other forms of alternative energy has indeed created jobs. But Calzada's report concludes that they often are temporary and have received $752,000 to $800,000 each in subsidies -- wind industry jobs cost even more, $1.4 million each. And each new job entails the loss of 2.2 other jobs that are either lost or not created in other industries because of the political allocation -- sub-optimum in terms of economic efficiency -- of capital. (European media regularly report "eco-corruption" leaving a "footprint of sleaze" -- gaming the subsidy systems, profiteering from land sales for wind farms, etc.) Calzada says the creation of jobs in alternative energy has subtracted about 110,000 jobs from elsewhere in Spain's economy.
Why would American politicians want to ignore research that shows the deleterious effect of such policies on employment and follow Spain's path? Is the self-righteous effort more important than the actual results?
Still, one can be agnostic about both reports while being dismayed by the frequency with which such findings are ignored simply because they question policies that are so invested with righteousness that methodical economic reasoning about their costs and benefits seems unimportant. When the president speaks of "new green energy economies" creating "countless well-paying jobs," perhaps they really are countless, meaning incapable of being counted.

For fervent believers in governments' abilities to control the climate and in the urgent need for them to do so, believing is seeing: They see, through their ideological lenses, governments' green spending as always paying for itself. This is a free-lunch faith comparable to that of those few conservatives who believe that tax cuts always completely pay for themselves by stimulating compensating revenues from economic growth.

Windmills are iconic in the land of Don Quixote, whose tilting at them became emblematic of comic futility. Spain's new windmills are neither amusing nor emblematic of policies America should emulate.
We can observe this approach that the effort to pass a cap and trade proposal is more important than whether the bill actually does anything to lower global temperatures. Seeming is more crucial than accomplishing.


Pat Patterson said...

Arrogance, it's obvious that the Spanish, even Spanish socialists, are not as smart or the condititions are not right for such a policy to succeed. We, on the other hand, have smarter politicians and the conditions are ideal. Those two conditions are a majority in Congress and more money than Croesus, just in case the inevitability of green jobs is delayed somewhat.

equitus said...

This great nation is powered on HOPE! Who needs efficient energy production when we have that?

tfhr said...

Get ready for the Windmill czar!

Bachbone said...

The German government subsidized windmills for years, but finally quit when it became clear that form of alternative energy production would not reduce fossil fuel use significantly. After 10 years of use, replacing the whole generating unit is as cost effective as rebuilding the old one. There still is no economical battery storage capacity for windmills, so when the wind stops blowing, so does electricity production.

All these alternative energy proposals are power plays (pun intended), money grabs, feel good projects and pigs in a poke besides the "make work" and buy votes for Democrats Dr. Will cites.

toadold said...

In the mean time oil shale, off shore oil, and gas lease developments are frozen by Salazar. Funding for real research is being sucked up by "green" projects, that if anybody had researched them would show them to be old whines in new bags. Just another way to suck money from the taxpayers.
If the unemployment rate keeps inching up we'll see if the old saying, "Voters will vote their pocket books." will apply in the 2010 mid terms.

tfhr said...

If this cap and trade climate change lunacy continues there will be a job boom - in the sale of "carbon credits". What a scam!

equitus said...

The myth of a green jobs boom.

The left and the Dems live according to myths. What a disaster.