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Wall Street Journal Market Watch

 

Green Jobs Haven't Lived Up To Obama's Promise

March 22, 2013

By Diana Furchtgott-Roth

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America can boast only 500 green jobs in solar electric power generation, but 886,000 green jobs in government many for passage of environmental laws, enforcement of environmental regulations, and administration of environmental programs, according to the new count of green jobs for 2011 released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics this week.

The new report shows that the number of green jobs in the economy grew from 3.2 million in 2010, the first year of data collected, to 3.4 million in 2011. That’s an increase of one-tenth of a percent of the nation’s jobs, from 2.5% to 2.6%

BLS is responsible for the federal definition of green jobs under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, signed into law by President George W. Bush. The Act incorporated the Green Jobs Act as Title X, sponsored by then-Rep. Hilda Solis, a California Democrat. Solis became secretary of Labor in 2009, and was charged with implementing her legislation.

Now that Solis has resigned, and the budget sequester is in place, BLS is discontinuing the survey, saving $8 million.

President Barack Obama called for the creation of 5 million green jobs over the next decade in his 2008 campaign. Most recently, in his State of the Union Address, the president reiterated his support, saying "Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean-energy market and the jobs that came with it. We’ve begun to change that."

The Obama administration then proceeded to give out grants and guaranteed loans for green-energy projects to try to make his dream into reality. Alternative energy grants, loans, and tax breaks cost the economy about $12 billion in 2012.

When people hear of green jobs, they think workers are making wind and solar power, and electric cars and batteries. But few Americans are employed in these sectors.

In addition to the 500 jobs in solar electric power generation, biomass and geothermal electric generation each accounted for 1,000 jobs, and wind electric power generation employed 3,000 Americans. These are all dwarfed by nuclear power, at 44,000, even though nuclear power is no favorite of environmentalists.

In contrast, the number of jobs in oil and gas extraction increased from 159,000 in 2010 to 172,000 in 2011.

The largest increase in green jobs came from the construction industry, which added 102,000 jobs, mostly through relabeling. As more construction materials are categorized as energy efficient, the jobs of those who install them turn green.

For instance, BLS counts construction workers who install energy efficient windows as having green jobs, but not those who put in regular windows. Plumbers who install "Lo-Flo" toilets have green jobs, but not plumbers who put in regular fixtures.

The largest number of green jobs, 886,000, or 26% of total, are in the federal, state, and local governments. This is a decline of 15,000 from 2010, when government was responsible for 28% of green jobs. It takes a quarter of the green jobs work force to pass green jobs laws, write the regulations, and enforce them.

For instance, Gregory Friedman, inspector general of the Energy Department, has a green job and a staff of green employees. Last month he wrote a report describing the misuse of a $150 million grant awarded to LG Chem, a South Korean-owned battery manufacturer in Holland, Mich. LG Chem was supposed to create 440 green jobs and make enough batteries to run 60,000 electric cars by December 2013.

But LG Chem’s employees weren’t green. According to Friedman, "we confirmed that employees spent time volunteering at local non-profit organizations, playing games and watching movies during regular working hours." LG Chem, meanwhile, sold to U.S. firms batteries made in South Korea. That’s money from Uncle Sam for green jobs in Asia.

Even the Pentagon is trying to go green. It’s spending $510 million over three years to develop new biofuels for ships and tanks. Biofuels cost $27 per gallon, rather than $3.80 per gallon for conventional fuel. With the Pentagon facing a $43 billion sequester this year, in addition to previous cuts of $260 billion over five years, this is not the time for a $510 million experimental program.

The rationale is that oil is produced abroad, and so fueling ships with home-made biofuels will increase America’s security. But with new U.S. and Canadian production of oil and gas from shale, we’re no longer as dependent on imports from unfriendly nations.

Such spending might increase numbers of green jobs, but it makes America weaker, rather than stronger, because these fuels are more expensive. Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey filed amendments to eliminate the military’s spending on biofuels, but they were rejected on Wednesday.

A July 2012 Memorandum of Understanding between the Defense Department and the Interior Department detail plans for off-shore wind energy use and solar and geothermal energy creation on military installations and other federal lands.

Rather than produce alternative energy on military bases, why not lease land on the bases to oil companies to produce supplies of oil and gas? Military bases are near the Monterey shale play in California, the Barnett play and Eagle Ford shale in Texas. The government would get revenues from leases perhaps enough to pay for the biofuels.

By doing away with the jobs survey, BLS is avoiding further embarrassment to the administration, as well as saving $8 million. Too bad the mandates and subsidies for green energy can’t disappear at the same time.

Original Source: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/green-jobs-havent-lived-up-to-obamas-promise-2013-03-22

 

 
 
 

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