The Democratic Party, in quadrennial convention in Charlotte, N.C., this week, is in thrall to "green jobs."
The party platform declares:
"And we will continue to champion sustainable growth that includes the clean energy that creates green jobs and combats climate change."
What are green jobs? The various definitions are confusing and contradictory. Just as "green" has become a fashionable label, meant to signify a commitment to the environment (or to combatting global warming), so the Labor Department sometimes slaps a "green" label on old jobs. Authentically green jobs, those that conserve energy, reduce toxic residue, or diminish carbon emissions, can be costly.
With job creation weak and unemployment high — new figures, for August, are due out on Friday — the focus on costly green jobs is misplaced.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is responsible for the federal definition of green jobs under Title X of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, signed into law by President George W. Bush. Title X was 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 charged with implementing her legislation.
In fact, the Bureaus definitions of green jobs are all over the map. The larger truth is that "green jobs" is an expansive term, and no one knows definitely which jobs are green and which are not.
To President Barack Obama, the definition of green jobs matters because he promised to create 5 million of them over 10 years when he was campaigning in 2008. So far, the Labor Department has counted only 3.1 million.
To agriculture and industry, the definition matters because money is at stake. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided the Labor Department with $500 million for grants in research and training for green jobs, funds that were awarded to state work force agencies, community colleges, and nonprofits.
These grants were used to train workers in green jobs such as hybrid- and electric-car auto mechanics, weatherization of buildings, and solar panel installation.
However, the grants have a low success rate. Labor Department Assistant Secretary Jane Oates, in an April letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, reported that of 53,000 people who participated in green jobs training, only 5,400, or 10.2%, were still employed in their new positions at the end of 2011.
BLS has defined green jobs either as "jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources," or as "jobs in which workers duties involve making their establishments production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources."
Included are long lists of nonfarm jobs that might qualify. Energy from renewable sources makes the list — wind, biomass, geothermal, and solar. The manufacture of energy-efficient products, and those for pollution reduction and recycling, also count as green. Jobs in conservation qualify, and as do jobs in organic farming, land and water management.
In agriculture, one of the biggest economic contributors to green jobs is corn producers. When a farmer produces corn for the table, it is not counted as a green job. But when he produces it for conversion to ethanol, he is performing a green job — even though ethanol raises the cost of food and gasoline.
Its possible to calculate the percentage of farm employment that is dedicated to ethanol or organic produce, but in other areas the numbers are not so clear. One example is electricity production. Wind and solar installation, maintenance, and operation are clearly green, yet expensive. But what about efforts to increase the efficiency of a power plant that burns fossil fuels, such as oil, coal, or natural gas? After all, since the introduction of electricity, its generation has been getting gradually more efficient, as new technology replaces old.
Consider the militarys $510 million, three-year program to develop new biofuels for ships and tanks. These biofuels cost $27 per gallon, rather than $3.50 per gallon for conventional fuel, and their producers have green jobs. With the Pentagons budget on track to be reduced by $260 billion over five years, this is not the time for a $510 million experimental program.
Installing a low-flow toilet counts as a green job, but putting in a regular toilet is just plumbing. Like many of the workers the government is trying to measure, these workers would still be needed, even if there was no concept of a green economy. What is different: the Labor Department may provide funding for "retraining" workers to install this different toilet.
Some say that America needs to promote green technology to keep pace with China. But China is producing solar panels and wind turbines to export to America and Europe, not for electricity production. As of 2008, 70% of Chinas energy came from coal. Due to their cost, wind and solar provide less than 2% of the power for Chinas electricity. Rather, China is importing American coal so it can produce inexpensive energy in its power plants.
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. See Manhattan Institute report about the pitfalls of green jobs.
But no one knows for certain what green jobs are.
Neither the federal government nor state governments can agree on the function or characteristics of a green job. Not only is there no clear federal definition of a green job, but states have their own definitions. This means that federal grants to states to create green jobs dont produce consistent results.
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. Counting or creating green jobs is a waste of taxpayer dollars.
Original Source: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-focus-on-green-jobs-is-misplaced-2012-09-06