walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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Green Job Scam Revealed

The “green jobs” idea — that we could vitalize the economy by spending tons of money on promoting ‘green energy’ and other green ideas — is running into trouble. Prominent (and much subsidized) solar manufacturer Evergreen Solar is filing for bankruptcy, citing lower prices and increased competition from a familiar source:

“When margins are getting squeezed, pennies count,” says Pavel Molchanov, a solar analyst with Raymond James Financial. “Quite frankly, as a solar manufacturer, it is a lot better to pay workers $1 an hour in China than workers $15 an hour in Massachusetts.”

Those who tout green jobs as the engine of America’s economic growth miss a fundamental point: there’s no substantive difference between green manufacturing and any other type. Manufacturers have been fleeing the high labor costs and regulation of the United States for cheaper labor in China for years — there’s no reason they won’t do the same simply because a product is “green.” While there is certainly a market for solar panels and other green products, that market follows the same economic rules as everything else. Green jobs are not a solution to America’s economic woes.

Meanwhile from Seattle comes the story that a highly promoted weatherization program (another ‘green jobs’ pipe dream) has gone belly up.  Seattle won a $20 million grant from the feds to hire 2,000 locals at “living wages” to upgrade the insulation on 2,000 low income homes. Jobs, free insulation, and a reduced carbon footprint for Seattle.  In green circles, this passes for policy brilliance; the Mayor of Seattle joined Vice President Biden last year to get the grant off to a good start.  “A triple win,” said the Veep.

And how did this clever little piece of green urban policy work out?  Not so great, according to an article by Vanessa Ho in SeattlePI.

But more than a year later, Seattle’s numbers are lackluster. As of last week, only three homes had been retrofitted and just 14 new jobs have emerged from the program. Many of the jobs are administrative, and not the entry-level pathways once dreamed of for low-income workers. Some people wonder if the original goals are now achievable.

“The jobs haven’t surfaced yet,” said Michael Woo, director of Got Green, a Seattle community organizing group focused on the environment and social justice.

“It’s been a very slow and tedious process. It’s almost painful, the number of meetings people have gone to. Those are the people who got jobs. There’s been no real investment for the broader public.”

But at least all those low income homeowners got insulation upgrades, right?

Well, not exactly, writes Ms Ho, but the Washington Athletic Club got some work done, as did some community hospitals.  So: $20 million dollars gets us some paper shuffling bureaucratic jobs for a handful of meeting addicted hactivists and some subsidized building work for a health club.

The “Green Jobs” initiative was a signature policy for the Obama administration and it makes perfect sense on paper: it unifies all the Democratic interest groups, bridging the ideological divide between ‘growth Dems’ and ‘green Dems’.  It’s got only two tiny little flaws: first, that it doesn’t work in the real world, and second that the wheels may be coming off the wagon before the 2012 election has safely passed.

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  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    There are energy jobs that can’t be exported, new nuclear power plants, oil development, Oil shale development, coal. I blame the leftists for all these missing jobs.

  • http://therandomtexan.wordpress.com Mike Anderson

    It’s almost like this Green Jobs thing was some kind of scam, put over by rent-seeking bureaucrats.

  • Bruce B

    Is anybody surprised that the money the government extracted from the legitimate economy (maybe they just printed it instead) was not used wisely?

  • Luke Lea

    “Manufacturers have been fleeing the high labor costs and regulation of the United States for cheaper labor in China for years — there’s no reason they won’t do the same simply because a product is “green.” ”

    That’s right. It is all a matter of the rules of the game.

    The real question is, who sets the rules?

    For example, should the rule be that the United States will tax imports from low-wage countries like China in order to protect the wages and employment opportunities of American citizens? Or should we leave in place the rules that were first put into place 18 years ago?

    Either way corporations will do whatever they must to make to most money under the law. They have no choice. Only the American people have a choice.

  • PerryM

    Porky Pig government loves to pick winners and losers in private industry.

    Porky is wrong 100% of the time – with GM it will take a little longer but eventually the truth will come out – another loser.

    These are the same clowns that run everything in Washington – 100% losers and shortly tell your doctor what he/she can and can’t do to you……

  • BCanuck

    Green Jobs scam revealed … again …. and again.

    The Washington Athletic Club is a nice facility, decent rooms, good downtown location, affiliated with other private clubs. Not exactly ‘low income’.

    Wonder if the Seattle people have run through the whole $20 million yet?

  • http://www.occidentaldissent.com/ Hunter Wallace

    The “stimulus package” itself is a fraud. If you look at the stimulus package spending in Louisiana, roughly 2/3rds of the “stimulus” went to TANF welfare, EBT cards, Medicaid, and Head Start.

  • Corlyss

    The other substantive issue with green manufacturing is there’s no freakin’ demand for it. The Obamaoids will have to ban the use of coal, heavily subsidize the industries, and force consumers to buy only those products. Oh wait! That’s what they are doing!

    Remind me again who won the conflict between Communists central planning and the Wests free market capitalism?

  • leftcoastrighty

    Once they take away small business peoples’ capital through taxes and eliminate the home morgtage deduction – maybe acorn, greenjob and stimulus hucksters can buy up our businesses and move into our homes. This Obama regime is crooked, anti american and aspirationally fascist.

  • EJM

    Democrats are against crony capitalists if those capitalists are in industries like oil and gas, but they are in favor of crony capitalism on steroids if it’s “green industry” or there are unions to be paid off like with the GM and Chrysler bailouts. Want to know where to cut? All such meddling in the private economy with public funds should end.

    Solar power and other renewable technologies will come naturally when fossil fuel prices rise. Individual enterpreneurs will put up the capital and take the risk, reaping the rewards if they have a better mousetrap. Ideology and politics have no place in the marketplace of ideas and invention. Meanwhile proven technologies remain underdeveloped because of of the stranglehold of government regulation, and tens or hundreds of thousands of workers are idled.

    Barack Obama is congenitally incapable of understanding how innovation and enterpreneurship works. He and most of his party are stuck on failed central planning policies, while our economy stagnates and millions are out of work.

    The solution is not to create a new Dept. of Jobs, but to remove the President from his current position for not being able to do his job.

  • john Davis

    We have plenty of oil in the US. If environmentalists would let us drill, that would create millions of jobs. Building nuclear plants would also create jobs (and lower energy costs). But once again, environmentalists are killing American jobs. There is an entire region in California where farmers are not allowed to irrigate their crops because of a tiny little fish (the delta smelt). Once again, environmentalists are killing thousands of jobs.

  • huxley

    I sometimes imagine a United States in which Obama had spent a trillion dollars on nuclear power plants, thus freeing America from dependence on foreign oil and, for those so concerned, reducing our carbon footprint substantially.

    That would have created a large number of real jobs that could not be outsourced and done much to safeguard our future.

    Of course, it’s just a fantasy.

  • MEW

    The definition of insanity. Doing the same thing over and over and over expecting a different result. Social engineering and Government control of industry is INSANE. What does that say of the fools he keep trying it?

  • MJ

    The fundamental problem is unions and the significant extra costs they impose on manufacturing enterprises. In a similar vein, the concept of “prevailing wage” and “living wage” ulitmately doom those enterprises upon who they are imposed. You simply cannot mix social engineering with free enterprise. Companies will ultimately simply respond with their feet. The foreign auto manufactures who have opened and are opening profitable, successful plants in right to work states are a case in point. Texas (in general) is a case in point. If Mexico ever becomes stabilized and safe, watch American companies and far east companies locate manufacturing there in a big way.

  • Jim.

    Don’t “green” jobs account for no more than 100,000… nationwide?

    The idea that a sector this small would provide any meaningful relief to unemployment is imbecilic.

  • Scott

    So a bureaucrat run centrally planned economy doesn’t work? Who woulda guessed it?

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