Restoring Science to Its Rightful Place—Shilling for Green Jobs


"We will restore science to its rightful place," promised President Barack Obama in his inaugural address. Rigorous and honest analysis would used to set policy, unless … unless such analyses get in the way of the goals and profits of favored constituencies, like say, the wind and solar power industries. Last year, a study released by researchers at Spain's King Juan Carlos University found that subsidized green jobs were an economic black hole. As I noted at the time, the report found:

[W]e find that for every renewable energy job that the State manages to finance, Spain's experience cited by President Obama as a model reveals with high confidence, by two different methods, that the U.S. should expect a loss of at least 2.2 jobs on average, or about 9 jobs lost for every 4 created, to which we have to add those jobs that non-subsidized investments with the same resources would have created…

while it is not possible to directly translate Spain's experience with exactitude to claim that the U.S. would lose at least 6.6 million to 11 million jobs, as a direct consequence were it to actually create 3 to 5 million "green jobs" as promised (in addition to the jobs lost due to the opportunity cost of private capital employed in renewable energy), the study clearly reveals the tendency that the U.S. should expect such an outcome…

The study calculates that since 2000 Spain spent €571,138 to create each "green job", including subsidies of more than €1 million per wind industry job…

Each "green" megawatt installed destroys 5.28 jobs on average elsewhere in the economy: 8.99 by photovoltaics, 4.27 by wind energy, 5.05 by mini-hydro.

These costs do not appear to be unique to Spain's approach but instead are largely inherent in schemes to promote renewable energy sources.

About the time that the study was released, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (a.k.a., the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill) was coming up to a vote in the House of Representatives. The environmental lobby group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, hailed the bill declaring that it "has the major ingredients to generate millions of jobs." But the JCU study strongly argued that subsidizing renewable energy technologies to create jobs was an expensive and counterproductive myth.

The green blogosphere erupted in rage. For example, Center for American Progress climate blogger, Joe Romm denounced the conservative Heritage Foundation for pushing a "completely untrue" attack on clean jobs funded by fossil fuel interests. The green lobbyists just knew the study must be wrong and breathed huge satisfied sigh of relief when a new study refuting the JCU study was produced by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Science had once again triumphed over rightwing anti-science ideology—green jobs forever!

But some cynical people were suspicious of the provenance of the NREL study. So they filed a Freedom on Information Act (FOIA) request with the Department of Energy to see how the study came about. It turns out that it was vetted by the renewable energy industry, specifically the lobbyists at the American Wind Energy Association. The FOIA filers, the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, is now reporting some of what they found out:

After two studies refuted President Barack Obama's assertions regarding the success of Spain's and Denmark's wind energy programs, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request reveals the Department of Energy turned to George Soros and to wind industry lobbyists to attack the studies.

Via the FOIA request, the Competitive Enterprise Institute has learned that the Department of Energy — specifically the office headed by Al Gore's company's former CEO, Cathy Zoi — turned to George Soros' Center for American Progress and other wind industry lobbyists to help push Obama's wind energy proposals.

The FOIA request was not entirely complied with, and CEI just filed an appeal over documents still being withheld. In addition to withholding many internal communications, the administration is withholding communications with these lobbyists and other related communications, claiming they constitute "inter-agency memoranda." This implies that, according to the DoE, wind industry lobbyists and Soros's Center for American Progress are — for legal purposes — extensions of the government.

Interesting. Very interesting. The NREL's conclusions were widely bruited through the leftwing echo chamber. The Chicago Tribune's Washington blog, The Swamp notes:

Energy Department officials never disclosed the wind group's role in the generation of the rebuttal report, telling an inquiring member of Congress last month only that the Laboratory researchers "felt compelled to post the response… due to the high media interest in green jobs creation."

Recently, there has been even more bad news for green jobs promoters. As I reported in an article, The Green Jobs Delusion, a new independent German study largely agrees with the Spanish findings:

While employment projections in the renewable sector convey seemingly impressive prospects for gross job growth, they typically obscure the broader implications for economic welfare by omitting any accounting of off-setting impacts. These impacts include, but are not limited to, job losses from crowding out of cheaper forms of conventional energy generation, indirect impacts on upstream industries, additional job losses from the drain on economic activity precipitated by higher electricity prices, private consumers' overall loss of purchasing power due to higher electricity prices, and diverting funds from other, possibly more beneficial investment.

Proponents of renewable energies often regard the requirement for more workers to produce a given amount of energy as a benefit, failing to recognize that this lowers the output potential of the economy and is hence counterproductive to net job creation. Significant research shows that initial employment benefits from renewable policies soon turn negative as additional costs are incurred. Trade and other assumptions in those studies claiming positive employment turn out to be unsupportable.

In the end, Germany's PV promotion has become a subsidization regime that, on a per-worker basis, has reached a level that far exceeds average wages, with per worker subsidies as high as 175,000 € (US $ 240,000). …

Although Germany's promotion of renewable energies is commonly portrayed in the media as setting a "shining example in providing a harvest for the world" (The Guardian 2007), we would instead regard the country's experience as a cautionary tale of massively expensive environmental and energy policy that is devoid of economic and environmental benefits.

The Swamp asked the JCU rsearchers what they thought of the new revelations:

The study's lead author, Gabriel Calzada Álvarez of Madrid's King Juan Carlos University, said in an email that the emails appear to show that "It is almost impossible to know who is the government and who the lobbyists. They have merged into one single animal with different faces."

It's easy to restore science to its "rightful place" (a.k.a. supporting the policy that you ideologically favor) if you let friendly lobbyists peer review it in advance.