Green-Jobs Fantasy
Sen. Lindsey Graham picks up the standard for job-killing energy taxes.


Iain Murray

Having recognized their unsustaina­bility, the Spanish government itself decided to reduce the size of subsidies to renewable energy. Analyses suggested that the solar industry was on course to lose 40,000 jobs this year. However, it may be that the U.S. taxpayer is now subsidizing them instead. Under a new program that allows renewable-energy providers to opt for cash payments rather than the 30 percent investment tax credit, the Treasury Department has awarded $295 million — out of a total of $502 million — to Spanish energy giant Iberdrola.

And Iberdrola isn’t the only foreign recipient. According to a report from the Watchdog Institute, there are plenty of countries that received stimulus cash to create green jobs, but created plenty overseas and few or none here. Most of the jobs that were created here were temporary. Despite all the stimulus money, the Amer­ican wind industry lost permanent manufacturing jobs (while creating temporary construction jobs) last year, because de­mand for over-expensive energy plum­meted (without the stimulus money, the in­dustry would likely have collapsed).

There are already signs that green jobs created in the U.S. are going to be just as expensive as the German and Spanish ones. On January 8, the Department of Energy announced the awarding of $2.3 billion in tax credits to companies for the creation of 17,000 “clean-tech” jobs. At over $135,000 per job, the administration is not yet up to the spending-per-job level of Germany, but that’s probably because it hasn’t concentrated on the vastly ex­pensive solar industry yet.

This is all the more ridiculous when one considers that there are ways to create real jobs in the energy sector that would have a beneficial effect on the economy. For instance, Sen. David Vitter (R., La.) has proposed a “no-cost stim­ulus” bill that would create an estimated 2 million jobs by opening up areas of the Outer Con­tinental Shelf currently off limits to oil and gas exploration, while also stream­lining the licensing of new nuclear plants. Vitter even proposes that oil-and-gas royalties be paid into a trust fund that would promote renewable energy.

Senator Graham’s enthusiasm for green jobs manifests in a willingness to sell out the American consumer in order to demonstrate “bipartisanship” on fluffy environmental issues. He’ll certainly see an improvement in his relations with the mainstream media, and probably get a few invitations to speak to adoring college students. After all, it worked for John McCain. Indeed, just this week the Guardian newspaper in the U.K. said that Graham should take over from Al Gore as the face of the environmental movement. However, if his “green jobs” trick manages to hide the decline in real employment for a short while, his true legacy will be one of damage to the American economy. As legacies go, that’s not one to covet.

– Iain Murray is vice president for strategy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.