Thursday, April 16, 2009

More Evidence That Going Green is Very Risky

My friend, Jeffrie Givens, sent me this new study on "green jobs" in Spain. It finds that for every green job created by the government, 2.2 jobs were lost by the private sector. The study goes on to report that the financial costs and the loss in jobs are not unique to Spain and that only one in ten jobs created were permanent jobs.

Will America's green job mandate do this to America too? A 2009 report by the Institute for Energy Research predicts that indeed it will. Here's an excerpt:

"It is highly questionable whether a government campaign to spur “green jobs” would have net economic benefits. Indeed, the distortionary impacts of government intrusion into energy markets could prematurely force business to abandon current production technologies for more expensive ones. Furthermore, there would likely be negative economic consequences from forcing higher-cost alternative energy sources upon the economy. These factors would likely increase consumer energy costs and the costs of a wide array of energy-intensive goods, slow GDP growth and ironically may yield no net job gains. More likely, they would result in net job losses."

Indeed, I am finding, in my career coaching practice, that most of the new green jobs are short-term, temp project work. When the government stimulus runs out, the sense is that these jobs will evaporate. And most of them are not good jobs, even if they did last. For example, the stimulus package includes $5 billion to weatherize low-income homes. Well, those jobs usually include such unpleasant activities as crawling into tight attic spaces to blow (and breathe) treated-cellulose insulation.

And now let's turn to whether trying to stop climate change is worth it. Ever more scientists are saying no. For example, to have even a trivial impact on global warming would require the world to reduce its carbon footprint by a politically unrealistic 70(!) percent. Those scientists argue that it's far wiser to spend the far more moderate amount of money needed to adapt to global warming than to attempt to cool the planet.

We must stop treating environmentalism like a religion but rather as one of many possible areas for expenditure that society must, in a clear-eyed way, decide whether to fund and to what extent. To spend massive sums on a boondoggle means that many, many other initiatives go unfunded, and in turn, unimaginable and avoidable human suffering will occur.

For example, while the massive green spending and incursions into freedom being contemplated are of truly uncertain benefit, it is a certainty that giving that sum of money directly to the African people could save millions of lives and dramatically improve the standard of living of millions more. Yet we're making the largest bet in world history that "going green" will be worth the costs and opportunity costs. I truly do not understand.

I must be wrong. Indeed, most nations, led by the extraordinarily respected Barack Obama are betting so many chips on Green. But what, in fact, am I not understanding?

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