Jacob Sullum
When Solyndra went belly up last month, less than a year after it started making solar arrays in Fremont, Calif., an Energy Department spokesman insisted that the $535 million the federal government had loaned the company was well spent. "The project that we supported succeeded," he said. "The facility was producing the product it said it would produce."

That rather short-sighted definition of success exemplifies the loopy logic of President Obama's "green jobs" agenda, which justifies subsidies based on good intentions and employment opportunities rather than profitability or cost-effectiveness. This policy is rooted in the broken planet fallacy, which treats global warming not as an environmental threat to be handled as expeditiously as possible but as an economic opportunity to be milked for all the jobs it can provide.

When he took office in January 2009, Obama promised to "help create 5 million new jobs by strategically investing $150 billion over the next 10 years to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future." The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which he signed the following month, included a down payment on that plan, described by Vice President Joseph Biden as "more than $20 billion for investment in a cleaner, greener economy," aimed at showing "how investing in green jobs will help build a strong middle class."

A month later, Obama put the figure at "$59 billion invested in clean energy and in tax incentives to promote clean energy." By that fall, the number had expanded to "about $80 billion" for "projects related to energy and the environment."

Administration officials may not have been sure how much they were spending on green jobs, but they all agreed it was totally worth it. In fact, according to presidential adviser Van Jones, the administration's designated "green jobs visionary," it was "the most fiscally conservative part" of the stimulus package," since "every dollar spent on green jobs is going to be out there working double time, triple time."

To understand how this works in practice, consider the $5 billion allocated to the Weatherization Assistance Program, which was supposed to create jobs while helping people make their homes more energy-efficient, thereby cutting their utility bills and reducing their "carbon footprint."


Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
 
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