Where are the Green Jobs?

From an excellent new report (and forthcoming book) from the Manhattan Institute:

The Obama administration has directed billions of taxpayer dollars toward programs intended to accelerate the development of a “green” economy centered on renewable energy, pollution reduction, and conservation. Such spending is a waste of government funds at a time when the federal government is running annual deficits of over a trillion dollars. The 3.1 million green jobs that have been created are primarily preexisting jobs that have been reclassified as green, and at a very high cost per worker.

What exactly is a “green job?” As we have seen from recent figures on job creation, averaging just 75,000 per month in the second quarter of 2012, creating new jobs is hard work. It is far easier to simply redefine an existing job as a “green job” than it is to create an actual new job.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) at the Department of Labor is responsible for defining green jobs under Title X of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, signed into law by President George W. Bush. The bill authorized funding for green-collar job training, including retrofitting buildings, installing solar panels and setting up wind farms, and building energy efficient buildings.

I was aware that the technical definition of a green job used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics was a bit fishy — including things like trash collection and other necessary tasks that have been around for centuries — but I wasn’t aware that these jobs had been recently reclassified, according to the above author, as green in order to sell the “green jobs” package in a more believable (or unbelievable) fashion.

A closer look at some of the confusing criteria and decisions as to what is a ‘green job’:

It is puzzling to say that a construction worker is doing a different job when he installs a gas insulated window rather than a traditional pane window. Installing a “Lo-Flo” toilet is a green job, but installing a regular toilet is just plumbing.[10] Like many of the workers the government is trying to capture in its green job accounting, these workers would still be needed, even if there was no concept of a green economy. The difference is the Labor Department may provide funding for “retraining” workers to install the “Lo-Flo” toilet.

Public transportation is another area with a baffling set of criteria for qualifying as a green worker. Buses and trains are included, but not taxis. In many cases, however, building and operating a rail line uses more energy than buses do. And in other cases it makes more sense to take a taxi than a bus. Further, if rail service is green, should not planes be included? The carbon emissions of planes per mile travelled are substantially less per mile of travel than those of cars

People who work in museums have green jobs, but only in environment and science museums. A job in an art gallery is not a green job. The securities and commodity exchange industry counts as green—but only for emissions allowance trading. News syndicates are green—as long as they publish environmental media. Book publishers are green, if they issue environmental books or training manuals. Perhaps this report qualifies as environmental content, since it is about green jobs.

So, ‘green jobs’ include working at museums that have science exhibits? And book publishers that sell books about the environment? I read a lot of content produced by environmentalists, and I’ve never been led to believe that book publishers or museums were part of their plan to save modern civilization.

From the conclusion:

For several years the public has been told that “green energy”—an expansive term that embraces renewable energy, pollution reduction, and conservation—will create lots of jobs in America. And that the federal government must subsidize green energy to create these jobs.

But no one knows what green jobs are.

Neither the federal government nor state governments can agree on the function or characteristics of a green job, although so many people seem to want them. Some green jobs, such as home insulators, have been around for decades and are simply being renamed as green jobs. Other jobs, such as manufacturing electric vehicles, are green jobs, but come at the expense of other auto industry jobs. Jobs in clean coal production are green jobs, but jobs in coal mining are not.

Not only is there no clear federal definition of a green job, but states have their own definitions. This means that federal grants to states to create green jobs don’t produce useful results.

America has not succeeded in creating many green jobs. Instead, federal and state governments are relabeling traditional jobs in an attempt to convince themselves and the public that green jobs exist.

What a travesty. Are the lawyers who are managing Solyndra’s bankruptcy counted as green workers?


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