‘Green jobs’ threaten to put us into the red
By Ezra Levant, Toronto Sun
In the great public debate about the future of energy, the oilsands aren’t just compared against other oil producers; they’re compared against potential future energy sources too (even if they’re still in their infancy and largely untested on the scale required to displace oil).
This is why when environmentalists promote their vision for a new economy based on renewable fuels, like wind and solar, they put tremendous emphasis on their promise that building more turbines and solar cells will only increase our prosperity, creating millions of “green jobs” in those industries, while improving the environment, with no additional costs to any of us.
“Millions of new jobs are among the many silver-, if not indeed gold-plated, linings on the cloud of climate change,” Achim Steiner, head of the UN’s environmental program, announced at a world climate-change conference in 2007.
“These jobs are not for just the middle classes — the so-called ‘green collar’ jobs — but also for workers in construction, sustainable forestry and agriculture, engineering and transportation.”
Spain and Germany, where governments have led the rush into subsidizing wind and solar power, he said, have “already created several hundred thousand jobs.”
Jim Harris, past leader of Canada’s Green Party and a bestselling business author, is warning Canadian politicians that they are missing the boat on a great job-creating opportunity in failing to keep up with European levels of renewable energy subsidies.
“Spain has just committed to creating a million green energy jobs over the next decade,” he wrote in an October 2009 article called Green Jobs Will Pay for Themselves.
As luck would have it, Spain is a pretty instructive country for Canadians to look to as a comparison to our own situation, since it has a population that’s similar in size (Canada population is 33 million; Spain’s is 40 million) and in 2008 had a roughly similar-sized economy (Canada’s GDP is $1.3 trillion; Spain’s is $1.4 trillion).
And Spain has truly been a leader in throwing all its policy muscle behind the green-economy effort.
Environmental groups that had argued for decades that if we would only try switching from our fossil fuel habit, we would discover how achievable it is to create a flourishing economy without them, finally had in Spain the pilot project they had been asking for.
But, although you wouldn’t know it from the cheerleading of environmentalists in Canada, the United States, and the UN, the reality is that back in Spain, the country supposedly leading the way on renewable energy, the truth was that that entire experiment has turned out to be an unmitigated disaster.
In March 2009, economic researchers at Spain’s King Juan Carlos University, after hearing so much of this international praise for their country’s renewable energy policies, and sensing something quite different going on around them, decided to finally examine the benefits and costs to Spain of this massive “green jobs” creation strategy, which has been underway for more than a decade.
The net effect of Spain’s green policy, the authors found, was that it actually “destroys jobs.” Lots of them. The report found a “surprisingly low number” of green jobs created in Spain overall — about fifty thousand — and most of them were only short-term work, such as building and installing facilities: Just one out of every ten jobs created was considered “at the more permanent level of actual operation and maintenance of the renewable sources of electricity.”
But, whether permanent or short-term, for every single so-called green job created in Spain since the government first embarked on the initiative in 1997, the policy killed 2.2 jobs elsewhere in the economy. For every green megawatt of electrical capacity installed, five jobs were wiped out from the economy, often as a result of higher power prices.
“These costs do not appear to be unique to Spain’s approach,” the researchers concluded, “but instead are largely inherent in schemes to promote renewable energy sources,” whether they’re implemented in Japan, Canada, or the United States. In fact, according to the study’s analysis, were the United States to adopt the same policies as Spain has — just like President Obama has said he hopes to — it could expect to create 3-5 million jobs, but it will likely eliminate, based on Spain’s experience, as many as 11 million other jobs in the process.
But that only represents a portion of the economic damage that has befallen Spain as a direct result of the policy. Because the few “green jobs” that were created didn’t just appear out of thin air: They only happened because the government poured billions of taxpayer dollars into the renewable energy sector. Every green job created cost the government €571,138, or about $850,000 (all figures using exchange rates as of late 2009). Every wind-industry job created cost, on average, more than €1 million to create, according to the report – roughly a staggering $1.5 million.
Of course, all that government money has to come from taxpayers, and you don’t need an economist to tell you that higher taxes means less prosperity — and fewer jobs — somewhere else in the economy.
Excerpted from Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada’s Oil Sands by Ezra Levant. Copyright 2010. Published by McClelland & Stewart Limited.