The creation of “green-collar” jobs is a major component of President Obama’s energy and economic strategy. Opportunities for achieving realistic goals should certainly be pursued, and many “green” projects do represent sound economics.
“Smart meters” and better attic, wall and window insulation reduce energy expenditures, and quickly pay back investments. Better sequencing of traffic lights speeds commuters to workplaces, saves gasoline, cuts pollution, and reduces accidents. Telecommuting also saves energy.
New technologies enable smelters and factories to recycle waste heat, to power turbines and generate electricity. Energy-efficient computers and servers mean big savings in power-hungry data centers that facilitate banking, Internet searches, modern business operations and YouTube.
Such initiatives also create “green” jobs. Renewable energy and energy efficiency industries already generate 8.5 million such jobs in the United States, claims a 2007 report from the American Solar Energy Society, and could create “as many as 40 million” by 2030.
However, numerous other green initiatives would not survive without mandates, renewable energy standards, tariffs and taxpayer-financed subsidies that borrow money or take funds from one economic sector and transfer it to another.
Energy-efficiency efforts have been ongoing for decades. Calling the relevant positions “green-collar” is good PR, but often merely redefines previously existing jobs and doesn’t expand the actual employment base. Moreover, many of these jobs are low-paying labor and construction jobs – and money spent on marginal initiatives isn’t available for critical problems like crime, AIDS, drug abuse, failing schools, heating bill assistance, and repairing bridges and roads.
The ASES report includes direct and indirect employment associated with retrofitting buildings, installing insulation or solar panels, constructing transmission lines from unreliable wind farms, producing biofuels and fuel-efficient vehicles, and designing and manufacturing supplies for projects. Even accountants, lawyers, salesmen, repairmen, truck drivers, landscapers, bureaucrats and lobbyists associated with these activities are included – and separating new jobs from redefined old jobs is difficult.
Be the first to read Paul Driessen's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.