Green Jobs

Washington Post Op-Ed Decries Liberal Green-Energy Crony Capitalism

|

Oh goodie!

Washington Post editorial writer Charles Lane has a terrific op/ed today detailing the "Liberals' Green-Energy Contradictions." Lane starts out by noting that wannabe Captain Planet Al Gore is now a centimillionaire largely as a result of his "investments" in highly subsidized green energy boondoggles, er, companies. But Lane explains that helping green crony capitalists is…

…not the worst contradiction in the Democrats' doing-well-by-being-green ethos. Green energy is not cost-competitive with traditional energy and won't be for years. So it can't work without either taxpayer subsidies, much of which accrue to "entrepreneurs" such as Gore, or higher prices for fossil energy — the brunt of which is borne by people of modest means.

Consider California's "net metering" subsidy for solar-panel users. As the New York Times reported in June, the program hugely benefits well-off consumers who can afford to install photovoltaic panels. They get sun power for their homes — plus an excess supply that utilities must buy. Thus utilities must also pay to keep them on the grid. Those costs get passed along to everyone else — including low-income customers.

For a sense of where this may lead, look at Germany, whose crash program to replace nuclear power with wind and solar is boosting electricity rates. Der Spiegel reports that 200,000 long-term unemployed lost power in 2011 because they couldn't pay their electric bills.

Democrats try to square this circle by talking up "green jobs," but expensive electricity is bad for industry, as Germany is discovering. Fact is, subsidies for green energy do not so much create jobs as shift them around.

Actually, Lane is being way too kind with his "shift them around" observation—numerous studies have shown that green energy subsidies kill far more jobs than they create.For example, as I reported earlier this year European countries are cutting way back on their green energy subsidies. Why? 

Because escalating solar subsidies are "a threat to the economy," asserted Philipp Rosler, Germany's minister of economics and technology. Since 2003 Germany has lavished $130 billion on an energy generation technology that produces just 3 percent of the country's electricity, boosting consumer electricity bills by $14 per month. Keep in mind that German consumers already pay 36 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared to an average of about 10 cents in the U.S.

Subsidizing green energy also turns out to be a job killer. In 2010 researchers at King Juan Carlos University calculated that nearly nine jobs are destroyed in the rest of the economy for every one created by solar subsidies. Similarly, researchers at the Bruno Leoni Institute, an Italian think tank, found that each green job cost five in the rest of the economy. A 2009 report from the Rhine-Westphalia Institute for Economic Research, a German think tank, concluded that green energy subsidies were "resulting in massive expenditures that show little long-term promise for stimulating the economy, protecting the environment, or increasing energy security."

Even as you are reading this blogpost, California is doggedly in the process of implementing its job-killing Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). The executive summary [PDF] of a study this past summer commissioned by California Manufacturers and Technology Association found that the GWSA:

—lowers California's 2020 GSP [gross state product] by $153.2 billion, amounting to a loss of 5.6 percent of GSP.

-California will have 262,000 fewer jobs in 2020 because of AB 32 (GSWA).

-By 2020, increased energy prices will increase household expenses for the average family by $2,500 per year.

Lane ends with an apt quotation from President Andrew Jackson with regard to government favor-seekers:

It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes," President Andrew Jackson wrote in 1832. "[W]hen the laws undertake to add .?.?. artificial distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society — the farmers, mechanics, and laborers — who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their Government."

As true today as it was 180 years ago.

NEXT: Nick Gillespie and Sen. Tom Coburn Discuss the Fiscal Time Bomb, the Military, and Morals in America

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. +1 miiiiiillion alt-text

  2. nice picture of a televangelist getting a blowjob

  3. Wait, you’re saying politicians are scumbag opportunists? Quelle surprise!

  4. He’s 1/100th of a millionaire? He’s only got $10,000 to his name?

    I think you mean a hectomillionaire.

      1. I’d never heard it before, so I figure Bailey just made it up and, like he does with so many things, just got it wrong. My mistake: it’s actually cultural ignorance. 🙂

        1. Math is hard. More so when it is foreign math.

          1. squar and Ptah: Be nice. Merriam Webster defines centimillionaire:
            : one whose wealth is estimated at one hundred million (as of dollars or pounds) or more

            1. Aw, just say “filthy rich” and move on. Jeez.

            2. Pshaw. The dictionary: the last refuge of the Malaprop. 🙂

  5. If Gore would just shave his head, he has a real Dr. Evil thing going on.

    1. When did he get so fat?

      1. Green energy cronyism is a leading cause of obesity among scumbag ex-politicians?

      2. He ain’t fat. His chakras is just backed up.

  6. The best thing about government investments is they are free of evil profiteering.

    1. The best thing about government investments is they are free of evil profiteering.

      When is the last time the government profited on an “investment?”

      1. Ah there is your problem, you are mistaken as to the actual goals.

        It is not for the government to profit, but rather for the polticiains and their friends to profit on government investments.

        That said, I’m gonna say 15th century Spain did pretty good on their investments in exploring the new world

  7. Goddamn, he’s a FaFu.

    1. But he makes up for it by being a crazed sex poodle.

    2. I googled FaFu but came up with some ostrich thing. Is that right?

      1. Add a “t” and a “ck” strategically into the term.

        1. aaah, thanks. I shall now use that obsessively

      2. John’s got it. I learned the abbreviation from the assholes at the Survivor Sucks discussion board, in reference to an American Idol season 1 contestant.

  8. Lets hoist progressive by their own petard.
    Pass a law that says any company that receives any sort of energy subsidies (green or not, or any subsidies at all) can’t pay it’s executives more than 30 times the lowest paid worker. Also forbid them from paying out dividends. We can have tax payer dollars going to fund high salaries for fat cats.

    1. But they count any money the government lets the company keep as a subsidy…

      1. Well, obviously any targetted tax breaks count as a subsidy. Duh.

  9. Green energy is not cost-competitive with traditional energy and won’t be for years.

    The author is still being far too sanguine. So-called “green energy” will not be cost-effective ever, even if we ran out of oil and coal altogether. You can still get cheaper methane from pig shit and polymers from plants if you need to, without resorting to dangerous batteries and inefficient solar panels or bird-killing windmills.

    So it can’t work without either taxpayer subsidies, much of which accrue to “entrepreneurs” such as Gore, or higher prices for fossil energy ? the brunt of which is borne by people of modest means.

    In the end, cheaper fossil fuels mean more energy available for poor people. The fact is that there are no greater enemies of the poor than Progressives.

    1. Pig shit is green energy, though. Hydrocarbon is only not green, as I understand it, if it involves reintroducing sequestered carbon to the natural carbon cycle.

  10. You know, I just don’t get how Reason spends so much time attacking the cronyism of green energy but I can’t seem to find any topics about all the other energy industry cronysim; I’m going to guess there’s got to be somewhere on the site but it sure seems in vogue to hate on alt energy these days. I don’t care how many politicians or journalists are sucking Chesapeake Energy’s dick; that house of cards is coming down sooner or later.

    1. Yes, I’m a green energy enthusiast; I’m also a libertarian and I don’t find those at all contradictory. I don’t believe in any cronysim including for alt energy and I do believe especially solar is going to beat fossil fuels in the relatively near future provided the US doesn’t fuck it with these damn Chinese tariffs.

      1. “I do believe especially solar is going to beat fossil fuels in the relatively near future”

        Unless it gets cloudy.

      2. Off the top of my head, I do not recall recent stories of energy-industry cronyism, but a search may turn up something. However, that is a narrow topic. If you expand it to any industry cronyism, then you can usually find a daily story regarding cronyism. i.e. TARP/Bank Bailouts, GM Bailout, MIC, health insurance/providers, and a bunch of licensing-law cronyism in taxi/transit, beauty/salon industry.

        Based on the near-daily coverage of corporate cronyism, there is no cause to think that Reason staff would purposely avoid a nuclear/coal/NatGas industry cronyism story.

        1. Not to defend energy industry handouts, but that likely has more to do with recent and/or pending legislation for energy-poor sources that flies in the face of Econ 101 and, as noted by Ron, serves to only enrich their well-connected players.

      3. Adam: Let’s see, how about here where I wrote:
        It’s been said time and again here at Reason: let’s get rid of all energy subsidies, period.

        In response to that blogpost, Reason commenters helpfully and correctly added that the government should get rid of all subsidies, not just energy subsidies.

        Or when the Economist quotes me:
        “It’s well past time for the Feds to stop trying to tell Americans what they should burn to drive their vehicles. That’s the job of prices in markets. Let’s stop all subsidies, tax breaks, and any other government meddling in energy markets and may the best fuel win!”

        Those are just two citations from my reporting. I assure you that my colleagues here at Reason oppose all subsidies, period. We assume that readers already know this and don’t need to hear that in every article.

        1. The choice of which subsidies you write about is very telling. You also don’t think very hard about what constitutes a subsidy. There’s no mention of the enormous amounts spent on foreign oil – military, wars, aid, etc. There’s no mention of the damage to health and property caused by extracting, refining, and burning fossil fuels. There’s no mention of the interstate highways or airplane subsidies.

          When you don’t write much about fossil fuel subsidies, and you don’t write much about socialized fossil fuel costs, people will assume you’re a PR lackey. That’s the difference between dope-smoking Republicanism and real libertarianism.

          1. JP: What about the impending lithium wars? Just kidding.

            Let’s see, Reason has been in favor of privatizing airports and highways for, oh say, ever since it began publication back in 1968.

            Just saying.

          2. Reason writes about military spending all the time. The butthurt is strong with this one.

    2. You see that little search box in the top right corner of the page?

      Type in “subsidies energy -green” and you’ll get all the articles with the words subsidy and energy in them, but no green. Naturally this will still pick up some articles about the “green energies” but should be easier to sift through.

    3. Re: Adam,

      You know, I just don’t get how Reason spends so much time attacking the cronyism of green energy but I can’t seem to find any topics about all the other energy industry cronysim

      This is the forum – go ahead and talk about it, I will be more than happy to discuss.

    4. You know, I just don’t get how Reason spends so much time attacking the cronyism of green energy but I can’t seem to find any topics about all the other energy industry cronysim

      Show us on the doll where Reason touched you.

      I’m fairly certain that in almost every instance, they have denounced ALL subsidies and cronyism.

    5. You know, I just don’t get how Reason spends so much time attacking the cronyism of green energy but I can’t seem to find any topics about all the other energy industry cronysim

      Fossil fuels pay the Kochs, the Kochs pay Bailey, and Bailey will say whatever you pay him to say. Reason’s energy coverage isn’t journalism; it’s public relations.

        1. I read it. It didn’t change anything about you. You posted that denialist nonsense from the Daily Mail yesterday; you didn’t post the Met Office response which obliterated it. This is a longstanding pattern where you say “I believe in global warming!” but manage to agree with denialist nonsense and refuse to retract, post rebuttals, or denounce their chicanery (which you are too intelligent not to understand).

          You post incessantly about green subsidies; you rarely, if ever, post about fossil fuel subsidies, despite the fact that they’re significantly larger.

          So what exactly changed? You mouthed a few platitiudes and went right back to your fossil fuel PR gig, untroubled by anything you supposedly learned.

          1. yeah Jersey. The only reason anyone uses fossil fuels is because they are subsidized. We would all be using wind and solar if the playing field were level.

  11. In 2010 researchers at King Juan Carlos University calculated that nearly nine jobs are destroyed in the rest of the economy for every one created by solar subsidies. …the Bruno Leoni Institute, an Italian think tank, found that each green job cost five in the rest of the economy. …the Rhine-Westphalia Institute for Economic Research, a German think tank, concluded that green energy subsidies were “resulting in massive expenditures that show little long-term promise for stimulating the economy, protecting the environment, or increasing energy security.”

    Oh well, those were all Europeans. They didn’t have the right TOP. MEN. in charge. We’ve got Al Gore. He’s super smart and super serial. /lib-tard

    1. Why won’t anyone take me serial?

      /Al Gore

  12. I do believe especially solar is going to beat fossil fuels in the relatively near future

    Now click your heels together and chant, “There’s no place like home.”

  13. Electricial distribution was designed by the state to burn fossil fuels at a central location and wire the energy to consumers. The damage to property and health caused by fossil fuels would be more or less ignored, and definitely not included in the price.

    It should surprise no one that wind and solar are not (currently) price-competitive. The state built electricity for the fossil fuel hub-spoke model. Let’s not confuse electricity prices as they are with anything resembling a free market.

    1. JP: Those nice countries with the gigantic renewables subsidies in Europe have shown us the proper way to design our electricity generation and distribution networks, huh? Oh, that’s right German electricity rates are three times higher than the U.S average.

      And policymakers are now worried that some 800,000 Germans will not be able to pay their electric bills, e.g., they suffer from “fuel poverty.”

      And let’s not forget that those nasty fossil fuels displaced wonderful renewable fuels such as wood, whale oil, and horse manure.

      1. Renewable energy is German for “Cold, Dark and Expensive”.

      2. The Europeans are tacking on more solar and wind, but their underlying electricity systems were designed by the state just as ours were: to burn fossil fuels. Not surprisingly, solar and wind are not price-competitive; the state subsidizes fossil fuels by building a system for them and refusing to price their damage.

        Fuel poverty is a problem, but burning fossil fuels is already harming even poorer people. And there’s 30 more years of warming ahead even if the fossil fuels were shut off tomorrow, which of course they won’t be. If you can’t do something without hurting someone else, you don’t get to do it, no matter how much you may want it. You have to find some other way.

        And let’s not forget that those nasty fossil fuels displaced wonderful renewable fuels such as wood, whale oil, and horse manure.

        No one’s proposing whale oil and horse manure. These herrings are delicious but awfully red.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.