Green Jobs Promises Dwindle As Policies Backfire

Published October 4, 2010

Once touted by the Obama administration as the wave of the future, green stimulus programs are rapidly falling out of favor with the administration as jobs fail to materialize. With unemployment at its highest level in 27 years, faith in taxpayer-funded green initiatives as a way to help end the recession is on the wane.

Green Stimulus Failed
The subject of green jobs was conspicuously absent from President Obama’s most recent $50 billion stimulus proposal. By contrast, about $92 billion in taxpayer funds—more than 11 percent—of Obama’s original $814 billion stimulus package, enacted in early 2009, went to an assortment of renewable energy projects. But the jobs that were supposed to be created never materialized—at least not in the United States.

According to the White House, last year’s stimulus created 190,700 green jobs, but the administration’s own Department of Energy (DOE) puts the figure at only 82,000. And, as the Washington Times reported on September 10,  as much as 80 percent of some green programs, including $2.3 billion in tax credits, went to foreign firms that employed workers primarily in China, South Korea, and Spain.

Jobs Sent Oversees
Other problems have arisen on the green-jobs front.

In 2007 the newly elected Democratic Congress joined forces with the Bush administration to enact an energy bill which, among other things, provided for the phase-out of traditional incandescent light bulbs. It turns out, however, that their replacement, the compact fluorescent light (CFL), can be manufactured much more cheaply in China. As a result, 200 workers at a GE light bulb factory in Winchester, Virginia recently lost their jobs.

Disillusionment with the broken promise of green jobs has even made its way into the ranks of the Obama administration’s political allies. In early September the United Steelworkers union filed a trade complaint against China, charging the Chinese with unfairly subsidizing the manufacture of components used by the renewable energy industry, at the expense of U.S. workers.

Ruffling even more feathers was a report issued last fall by American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop finding 11 U.S. wind farms used government grants to purchase most of their wind turbines—695 of 982 purchased—from foreign suppliers.

Poor Production
While green jobs to materialize, the amount of energy produced by the heavily subsidized renewable energy industry remains paltry. Despite substantial subsidies and mandates for renewable power, wind power accounts for less than 1 percent of U.S. energy production, and solar power accounts for merely one-tenth of 1 percent.

“The public has caught on to the Obama administration’s ruse concerning green jobs,” says Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis. “Multiple analyses from Europe and the United States show that the expensive, taxpayer-subsidized push for green jobs, by making energy more expensive and less reliable, actually costs more jobs than it creates.” 

“In addition,” Burnett explained, “many of the jobs created by the big green bailout are in China and not the United States. Chinese workers man the wind-turbine assembly lines, while Americans are lining up outside the unemployment offices—and in both instances, the American taxpayer foots the bill.”

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D., ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.