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.