“Fool me once,” Stephen King wrote, “shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, shame on both of us.” His adage certainly applies to the myth (and fake math) of green jobs.
During the 2020 United States presidential election campaign, Joe Biden asserted that more than three million Americans are already “employed in the clean energy economy.” He then boasted that “if executed strategically, our response to climate change can create more than 10 million well-paying jobs in the United States that will grow a stronger, more inclusive middle class … and not just in cities along the coasts.”
That would make Biden twice as boastful as his former boss, Barack Obama who promised while president that the 2009 US$787-billion stimulus package would create “over five million” green jobs. Four years later, the Brookings Institute reported that “of the nearly 2.7 million ‘green jobs’ [the Obama-Biden administration] identifies, most were bus drivers, sewage workers and other types of work that don’t fit the ‘green jobs of the future’” description.
Energy analyst David Blackmon later reported that Obama’s Department of Labor acknowledged the initial failure to launch. The department’s September 2011 report, Recovery Act: Slow Pace Placing Workers into Jobs Jeopardizes Employment Goals of the Green Jobs Program, noted that only a third of the allocated funding had been spent. A fifth of the “degrees” and “certifications” went to people with a single day of training and half of the “graduates” had five or fewer days of training. Just two per cent of program participants held their jobs for at least six months.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics counted oil industry lobbyists as holding ‘green’ jobs! The septic tank and portable toilet servicing industry had 33 times more of these jobs than solar electric utilities. The bureau had to admit in a June 2012 report, Green Technologies and Practices – August 2011, that they could identify only 854,700 ‘green’ jobs, including janitors and cleaners.
What a sham! Shame on them for trying to con Americans.
David Kreutzer pointed out in a Heritage Foundation report that steelworkers had the most ‘green’ industrial jobs. That’s because most U.S. steel is recycled scrap and some steel gets used in making wind turbines.
The next largest groups were bus drivers, waste collectors and used-merchandise store employees, followed finally by engineering and architectural services. The much-hated nuclear industry accounted for over 80 per cent of the 44,000 ‘green’ electric utility jobs. There were five times as many such jobs in social advocacy (environmentalist group lobbyists) as in renewable electric power.
Ah, but that was then and this is now, you say. Right.
In January, the Associated Press reported on President Biden’s “fuzzy math” regarding his claim of creating one million new auto industry jobs. Even if he actually replaces the 650,000 government vehicle fleet with electric cars and installs 500,000 new charging stations – all at taxpayer expense. Theoretically, a huge government buying program will lower electric vehicle costs and the myriad of charging stations will lessen fears of being stuck in a hurricane evacuation in a vehicle you can’t quickly gas up. Theoretically.
But hold on! Every electric vehicle job will likely come at the expense of a gasoline-engine vehicle job. Every charging station will diminish jobs in the pipeline, refining, gasoline retail, gasoline delivery and other sectors. The AP story adds that industry analysts and the United Auto Workers union agree that electric vehicle manufacturing will likely mean fewer automotive jobs. One reason is that these vehicles have far fewer parts and are simpler to build, thus they require fewer workers and often just need a new $6,000 battery module. Another is that battery manufacturing is easily automated.
But that’s hardly the whole story.
In 2019, while losing over a fifth of its U.S. market share of sales over a three-year period, General Motors admitted it already employed more non-union auto workers in China than union workers in the U.S. The harsh reality is that there are 10 times more electric vehicle battery manufacturing facilities in Asia than in all of North America. Maybe Biden is talking about the number of Chinese ‘green’ jobs – especially child and near-slave labour in China’s mines and processing plants.
Other fact-checkers have also found that the Biden administration’s green jobs claims are mostly false.
Electric vehicles are just part of Biden’s Green New Deal. Surrendering the American economy to the Paris climate accord and its draconian environmental restraints is another. Abandoning oil, gas and coal – and very likely nuclear energy – and all the jobs those industries create is a third. Biden is merely following Germany and other European Union countries down the primrose path to economic suicide.
According to Deutsche Bank, climate policy regulation of Germany’s automotive sector is triggering “the biggest structural break in the industry in decades.” A bank report explains that strict carbon dioxide limits for new passenger cars in the European Union for 2021 and 2030 are forcing manufacturers to prematurely switch to higher-cost electric vehicles. The resultant price increases, the bank predicts, will have a very negative effect on future employment in the German auto industry.
One reason is that the EU’s CO2 limits for passenger cars and subsidies for electric vehicles are “extremely inefficient [expensive] and hardly effective instruments” to achieve emission reduction in the transport sector. While government incentives and mandates may push people toward buying government-favoured vehicles, radical climate and energy policies decrease investment in energy-intensive sectors such as metals and chemicals. This will further increase the cost of new German cars.
Despite the push for green energy and electric vehicles, the German Trade Union Confederation reports that the number of ‘green’ jobs in the German renewables sector had fallen from 300,000 in 2011 to just 150,000 in 2018. Many of these lost jobs were due to the collapse of Germany’s solar power industry, as companies were forced out of business by Chinese manufacturers that undercut German prices – and had much easier access to raw materials.
The track record for American renewable industry jobs vis-à-vis Chinese competition has mimicked the German experience. A primary reason is China’s near-monopoly on rare-earth metals essential for the green revolution. Despite these realities, Biden’s “climate envoy” John Kerry recently said displaced American oil and gas workers can simply and easily go to work making solar panels.
Energy economist Tilak Doshi agrees the West’s fascination with renewables-only decarbonization and ultimately de-industrialization is a recipe for economic suicide. He notes that Germany’s plan involves behemoth wind turbines with blades made of petroleum-based, Fiberglas-reinforced resins; motors built with iron and rare earths extracted, processed and smelted using fossil fuels; concrete that requires fossil fuels; and factories run on coal and natural gas. Solar panels have the same pedigree.
The turbines and panels are installed in forests, grasslands, farmlands and coastal areas, where they destroy scenic vistas and wildlife habitats. Turbine blades kill endangered birds and bats.
The result of this save-the-planet zeal?
Germany has a burgeoning 17 per cent poverty rate, thanks largely to its shutdown of reliable nuclear and fossil fuel power plants and the resultant skyrocketing electricity prices for homes, factories, businesses and hospitals over the past 15 years.
Back in the U.S., California operates the world’s fifth largest economy by importing most of its crude oil from overseas (despite massive in-state reserves) and a third of its electricity from other states (also for political expediency).
As a result, Californians now pay 60 per cent more than the national average for residential, commercial and industrial electricity, while enduring frequent rolling blackouts due to pricey weather-dependent energy and pathetic forest management. People and industries are fleeing the state.
And Biden wants to turn the rest of the United States into California!
Duggan Flanakin is director of policy research at the Committee For a Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org). This column was supplied by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.