Two-Billion-Dollar ‘Stimulus’ Created No U.S. Wind Power Jobs

Published February 25, 2010

Despite promises that stimulus money directed to the wind power industry would create plentiful “green” jobs for unemployed Americans, the American Wind Energy Association reports no increase in overall U.S. wind industry jobs and an actual decline in manufacturing jobs in the industry.

In addition to the lack of new wind power jobs, the overwhelming majority of wind power stimulus money has gone to foreign companies, according to a report by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at the American University School of Communication in Washington, DC.

Nearly $2 billion from the stimulus package was spent on wind power job creation, but close to 80 percent of the money went to foreign wind power companies, the study revealed.

AWEA Claims Jobs “Saved”
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) claims the stimulus was a success despite the lack of job creation because it “saved” roughly 40,000 jobs that would have disappeared without government assistance.

“Jobs increased in wind farm development and decreased in manufacturing ending the year with no losses overall in the industry. Were it not for the Recovery Act, we estimated a loss of as much as 40,000 jobs,” AWEA argued in a February 11 press release.

Expensive Wind Power
E. Calvin Beisner, national spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, is not surprised by the lack of job creation in the industry.

“Wind power is about three to four times more costly than nuclear, coal, oil, and natural gas, and it’s intermittent and unreliable. That’s why government mandates and subsidies are necessary to get people to produce it,” Beisner said.

Illusory Job Creation
Daren Bakst, a regulatory analyst at the John Locke Foundation in North Carolina, points out even the alleged “saved” jobs were preserved only by sacrificing jobs in other, more productive sectors of the economy.

“If we took billions of dollars, we could create ‘green’ jobs. However, what we don’t see is how many jobs we are losing because we are diverting that money from far more productive uses,” Bakst said. “When the government takes taxpayer dollars to pick winners and losers, we are all going to be losers. Taking taxpayer dollars and transferring them to a costly and unreliable form of electricity generation isn’t exactly a formula for economic growth.”

Tax Dollars Sent Overseas
Bakst was particularly unhappy with taxpayer stimulus dollars being sent overseas to bolster foreign economies. Stimulus dollars, said Bakst, are supposed to be stimulating the U.S. economy instead.

“It’s far from laudable for the federal government to use taxpayer dollars to help subsidize foreign companies that build wind turbines,” said Bakst. “That’s precisely what has happened with the use of stimulus dollars.”

‘Will Never Be Reliable’
Beisner says those designing the wind power stimulus package would have served the country better by examining why the private sector has not funded wind power.

“Any time you see government mandating or subsidizing something, you immediately know it’s not economically efficient. If it were, it’d be profitable, and if it were profitable, private investors would be supporting it in their quest for profits,” Beisner said.

Bakst agrees and notes the wind power industry has been criticized as harmful to the nation’s environment.

“If wind power were a wise choice for electricity generation, the government wouldn’t need to create massive subsidies to prop up the industry. In fact, the federal subsidies alone for Big Wind are staggering,” Bakst said. “According to the Energy Information Administration, the cost of federal subsidies for wind power is $23.37 per mwh [megawatt hours of electricity generated].  The federal subsidies for coal are $0.44 per mwh. And despite these subsidies, wind power remains a costly and unreliable source of electricity.
“The right thing for the federal government to do is to stop subsidizing wind power and other renewable energy sources that will never be reliable forms of electricity generation. If we really want to create jobs, we should focus on doing everything we can to promote low-cost, reliable energy, such as removing barriers to building coal-fired power plants,” Bakst added.

Thomas Cheplick ([email protected]) writes from Cambridge, Massachusetts.