A key argument in favor of the stimulus package is that it contains several measures that are not only good for the environment but will create new jobs and boost the economy. From the people who make wind turbines and solar panels to those who install insulation in buildings or design electric cars, the predicted number of so-called green collar jobs to be created stretches into the hundreds of thousands. But reality says otherwise. In fact, everywhere that these green measures have been tried, unemployment has increased, not decreased. The same will happen across the U.S. if the stimulus package is enacted.
Take California, the state hyped by the proponents of green collar jobs as a model for the rest of the nation. This is a state that has already moved aggressively on several things in the stimulus package – tough energy efficiency measures to drive down consumption, alternative energy requirements, and legislation to fight global warming.
Governor Schwarzenegger and other green stimulus proponents have hyped these provisions as green in both the environmental and economic sense and thus a win-win for the state. However, notwithstanding questions about the supposed environmental benefits, it has become clear in recent months that California’s economy is nothing less than a basket case. The green stimulus measures are a contributor to the malaise.
Unemployment in California is now at 9.3 percent, well above the 7.6 percent for the nation as a whole. (It should be noted that the 7.6 percent national average is for January 2009 while state unemployment numbers for January haven’t been released. Thus, California’s 9.3 percent unemployment could likely be higher.) That’s correct – the state that has done more than any other to create green collar jobs has higher overall unemployment than most – only Rhode Island, South Carolina and Michigan rank higher. California is also near bankruptcy (if not there already), and many businesses are leaving for less hostile locations. And at a time that President Obama announced a task force headed by Vice President Biden to deal with the burgeoning problems facing the middle class, California is seeing its middle class to flee in substantial numbers. Some model.
Like California, western Europe has also been touted as a model for Washington to copy. These nations have already imposed renewable energy and global warming measures beyond those in place here. Many are touted as “leaders” because they have a larger percentage of wind energy than the U.S. But like California, they also have unemployment significantly higher than the U.S. average.
The reasons are simple. For one thing, the green measures adopted in California and Europe, like those in the stimulus package, require substantial taxpayer dollars to work. But taxing this money out of the private economy costs jobs elsewhere. Perhaps more importantly, all of these measures raise the cost of energy which also reduces jobs.
Consider government support for wind energy, something that California and Europe has aggressively implemented and that Washington would like to extend and expand via the stimulus bill. Granted, from the limited perspective of the wind energy industry, the generous tax credits – so generous that the wind industry’s big worry right now is that its tax credits exceed profits – create jobs in the manufacturing, installation, and operation of the wind turbines. But the substantial tax dollars needed to prop up this industry cost jobs elsewhere. At the same time, the expensive electricity generated by wind (its high cost is the main reason wind needs big handouts to compete with coal or natural gas or nuclear) also kills jobs.
In sum, increased government expenditures and higher energy costs make for a policy that’s a net job killer, and that is what we will get from the stimulus bill and its green agenda.