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Chairman's Message

Green Jobs Turns Out to Mean Few Jobs

Posted: January 21, 2012 at 8:25 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

One of Barack Obama’s 2008 signature promises was to create 5 million new “Green Jobs.” Not to be out done, Governor O’Malley announced his own “Smart, Green, and Growing” agenda in 2009, in which he promised 100,000 new green jobs in Maryland by 2015.

Earlier this week Obama’s campaign released its first ad which emphasized his record on energy independence and green jobs. It cited a Brookings study claiming America’s clean energy industry has “2.7 million jobs” and is “expanding rapidly.”

Not so fast.

According to this study, only a half a million of these jobs were added jobs between 2003 and 2010. At that rate, it will be the year 2073 before the target of 5 million new green jobs are created. The same report finds Maryland has 43,000 “green economy” jobs and that between 2003 and 2010 we added 8,400 new clean jobs. At a 1,200 a year pace, we will reach O’Malley’s goal in 2083.

Even these not so rosy numbers relied on by the Obama campaign are highly suspect, since they use a very vague and subjective definitions of what a so-called “green job” is. For example of the 2.7 million “clean jobs,” only 5% or 140,000 are involved with the renewable energy sector. Many are for “public administration.”

Gov. Martin O’Malley speaks against a backdrop of solar panels at BP Solar. Photo Doug Koontz (FrederickNewsPost.com)

Several years ago Governor O’Malley applauded the opening of BP Solar’s Frederick County plant, saying: “By capitalizing on Maryland’s existing renewable industry and recently enacted legislation to promote solar and wind energy, I hope to make Maryland the engine of the renewable energy economy.” Unfortunately the facility, which in 2009 employed over 500 workers, has since been completely shuttered.

One of the original reporters who uncovered the Solyndra scandal, CBS News’ Sheryl Attkisson, reports that 12 clean energy companies are having trouble after collectively being approved for more than $6.5 billion in federal assistance. Five have filed for bankruptcy.

The essential flaw in using government subsidies to create a green economy is that it creates enterprises whose entire existence requires that support. Without cost structures that can rely on market prices to cover costs, these enterprises depend on life support from taxpayer money. They never seem to make it on their own.

Wasted government money for a green economy, though, comes in other forms.

The Labor Department Inspector General reports that in the Department’s green jobs training program only 2.5% of individuals originally enrolled were still employed in the jobs for which they were trained six months after the start of their job. Out of 47,000 enrolled in training, 26,000 completed training, and 8,000 found jobs. Of the 8,000, only 1,366 were employed six months later. The 1,336 trainees still employed after six months cost taxpayers $121,257 per job.

The Labor Department has a similar green jobs story. Their Department’s IG found that that only 45% of the funds appropriated by the 2009 Stimulus bill for green energy had been spent because few “shovel ready” projects really existed. Even more disconcerting, when the funds were spent, the work was often of poor quality. In one state audit, the majority of weatherized homes failed inspection due to substandard workmanship.

Contrast the green jobs results, with the lost opportunities for shale oil and gas production. For example, failure to move forward on the Keystone XL pipeline costs 20,000 direct jobs and another 118,000 indirect jobs.

Similarly, by blocking shale-gas drilling permits in the Marcellus shale formations found in Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties, Governor O’Malley is inflicting proportionally even greater job losses on Maryland.

According to a recent Penn State study, Marcellus producers in that state are generating more than $12.8 billion in value added in 2011 and another $14.5 billion during 2012. Their increased economic activity is generating almost $2.6 billion in additional state and local tax revenues during 2011 and 2012. New employment in Pennsylvania has expanded to 156,000 jobs by 2011.

Certainly in an economy which needs more jobs, “green jobs” have a contribution to make to recovery. However, we should not exaggerate their number or use the prospect of “green jobs” as an excuse to let government prevent other energy related employment from being created. Similarly we should realistic about the long-term “sustainability” of jobs which are completely dependent on continued government subsidy to exist.

The next time a Maryland politician invites you to a “Go Green Jobs Fair,” contrast the 156,000 new shale gas jobs in Pennsylvania with O’Malley’s 1,200 “clean jobs” being added annually in Maryland.

Mark Uncapher
Montgomery County Republican Chairman