‘Green-jobs policies are damaging America’s economy,” according to Regulating to Disaster, a new book by Diana Furchtgott-Roth of the Manhattan Institute. She talks about the green disaster and some clear solutions in an interview with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: What are green jobs exactly?
DIANA FURCHTGOTT-ROTH: The various definitions are confusing and contradictory. “Green” has become a vogue label, meant to signify a commitment to the environment (or to combating global warming). The Bureau of Labor Statistics is responsible for the federal definition of green jobs, and its definitions are all over the map. The truth is that “green jobs” is an expansive term, applied expediently in many cases, and no one knows definitely — or persuasively — which jobs are green and which are not.
: What’s fiction about Obama’s green-jobs story?
FURCHTGOTT-ROTH: For several years the public has been told that “green energy” will create jobs in America, lots of jobs. And that the federal government must subsidize green energy to make them exist. Many of the 3.1 million so-called green jobs counted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics are jobs that already existed, but have been relabeled as “green.” For instance, someone working in a Salvation Army store sorting used clothes has a green job. A trash collector who picks up recycled materials has a green job. These are not necessarily new jobs.
Authentically green jobs, those that conserve energy, reduce toxic residue, or diminish carbon emissions, often are costly. Mandating the use of renewables, such as wind and solar, means that production of wind turbines and solar panels is increasing overseas, in countries with lower labor costs such as China, and not here.
LOPEZ: Aren’t jobs what we all want? Why would you be talking down any kind of job?
FURCHTGOTT-ROTH: You’re right — in uncertain economic times, most people, in America and elsewhere, just want a job, any job. They do not care if it is green, red, white, or blue. The problem with the focus on counting or creating green jobs is that this activity is a waste of taxpayer dollars. It can slow our economy, because renewable energy is more expensive than natural gas, coal, or oil. People pay more for electricity generated by renewables. So requiring this type of fuel, with the associated green jobs, is like imposing a tax on the economy.
LOPEZ: How are green jobs raising utility bills?
FURCHTGOTT-ROTH: Electricity generated by wind, solar, and biomass is more expensive than energy generated by natural gas. States that require a certain percentage of electricity to be generated by renewables are imposing higher energy costs on their residents. California has the strictest requirements — 33 percent by 2020 — and Colorado is not far behind, with 30 percent by 2020. The burden falls most heavily on low- and middle-income households, whose utility bills are highest as a share of their income.
Green-jobs policies also raise the cost of transportation. Higher corporate-fuel-economy standards make cars more expensive, and requiring multiple blends of gasoline raises the price of gasoline. These higher costs hurt the poor.
LOPEZ: What’s the coming disaster?
FURCHTGOTT-ROTH: The disaster is already here — stagnant growth, a high unemployment rate, low job creation, the lowest labor-force participation rate since September 1981, the lowest rate of adult men in the workforce since 1948.
LOPEZ: The Green Jobs Act was passed under George W. Bush. How much Republican buy-in has there been? Do you see a mea culpa coming on?
FURCHTGOTT-ROTH: Title X of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, signed into law by President Bush, was originally a stand-alone bill, the Green Jobs Act, sponsored by then-representative Hilda Solis, a California Democrat. Solis became secretary of labor in 2009, and is now charged with implementing her legislation.
Republicans have paid lip service to the green-jobs concept, beginning with President Richard Nixon, who set a goal of “energy independence,” an impossible and undesirable goal. It’s undesirable because we can import low-cost oil from abroad, including Canada, increasing the efficiency of our economy. Republicans from agricultural states have generally supported mandates and tax credits for ethanol.
Mitt Romney supported green-energy policies in Massachusetts, but he has backed away from them in his new energy policy, which focuses on development of domestic resources.
LOPEZ: How are green-industry studies “fatally flawed”?
FURCHTGOTT-ROTH: Green-energy studies that show the benefits of green technologies turn logic on its head by concluding that more expensive, mandated technology will increase economic growth and job creation. Such studies have many flaws, including a failure to account for the economic activity displaced through investment in the new, green world; failure to account for the economic costs of higher energy prices; using multiple erroneous assumptions; falsely claiming the development of new industries; and falsely claiming higher numbers of well-paying jobs.
LOPEZ: Is green energy the new space race?
FURCHTGOTT-ROTH: Green energy has been mischaracterized as the new space race. In his State of the Union address on January 26, 2010, President Obama declared, “This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. . . . We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean-energy technology — an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.”
No matter that President Dwight Eisenhower deliberately allowed the Soviets to launch their Sputnik before he launched the American Corona spy satellites, so that after Sputnik flew over America, the Soviets would have no grounds for complaining about Corona flying over the Soviet Union. And no matter that not long after Sputnik, the Soviet economy, and eventually the Soviet Union, collapsed under the weight of Communism and industrial policy. There may be some rationale for government investment in space because it’s part of basic research and individual companies have difficulties undertaking projects of this magnitude, such as sending Curiosity to Mars. There is little rationale for the government’s developing alternative energy.