Some liberals might support clean-energy subsidies for their environmental benefits alone, but Warren attempted to offer an economic justification, too. In response to Senator Brown’s mention of the Keystone pipeline, she said, “Look, that’s not going to produce nearly as many jobs as if we invested that same money in clean energy.”
Of course, the Keystone pipeline is a private endeavor, not a U.S. government one, so it’s sadly impossible for Warren as senator to “invest that same money,” TransCanada’s capital, elsewhere.
But let’s just say she did have the $5.4 billion dollars that will be spent on building the Keystone XL extension, which the Obama administration has blocked, and spent it on trying to create green jobs. How many jobs would that create? That’s pretty easy to estimate, since the Department of Energy’s Section 1603 program provides cash grants to green-energy companies to create jobs. This program has resulted in, according to the DOE, 27,000 direct job-years created, at a cost of $10 billion — that’s a cost of $370,000 per job-year. By far the most parsimonious analysis of the Keystone pipeline’s jobs impact finds that during its construction period (similar to the 1603 period measured), its $5.4 billion will result in 59,000 job-years created, at a cost of about $90,000 per job-year, making it four times more efficient at creating jobs than the DOE program (while, you know, not costing the U.S. government anything).
One might be tempted to cut Warren a little slack for her huge misconceptions about the energy industry — who the real winners are, and the U.S. government’s role in it — since she’s supposed to be more of a financial expert. Sadly, though, her understanding of that industry isn’t much less muddled. Repeatedly, the professor who wants to go to Washington has shown far more interest in her own ideological fixations than in the facts.
— Patrick Brennan is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.