by Terence Corcoran, Financial Post
The job-killing consequences of massive government spending and regulation to force green energy development have yet to sink in with voters. But they might soon, which is why a cabal of environmental activists and subsidy-seeking industries have formed a new propaganda organization in Ontario called “Come Clean”.
What the green energy players in Come Clean want to squelch is the fact that their schemes will create few new jobs at exorbitant cost and in the process kill a lot more jobs. A hint of the employment havoc to come was noted in this space last week after the province announced it had approved 872 megawatts of new solar and wind projects, thereby triggering $3-billion in investment and 7,000 jobs.
But a back-of-the-envelope calculation by energy consultant Bruce Sharp came up with different and messier statistics. Over 20 years the projects will require somewhere between $4.1-billion and $5.6-billion in subsidies from Ontario electricity ratepayers. For each man-year of employment (about 27,000 over the period), the subsidy works out to between $152,000 and $207,000. That’s for each job each year.
Those numbers may be rough, but they are certainly within reason. Responding to criticism that his numbers were “wild guesses,” Mr. Sharp said: “Until I see something that looks like it credibly outlines how jobs are not being destroyed and that the green jobs being created are real and enduring, I will remain quite skeptical.”
The high cost per green job is an indicator of how much money will be taken out of the economy to finance uneconomic wind and solar power. As that money is sucked out of the pockets of ratepayers, and the accompanying high electricity costs drive away industrial investment, the job losses are all but guaranteed to exceed the green job gains. A recent economic report by Verso Economics in Scotland found that “for every job created in the U.K. in renewable energy, 3.7 jobs are lost.” New job loss risks are among the reasons Spanish and other European governments have been curtailing their green energy plans.
That’s what Come Clean is trying to neutralize. They might succeed. The lead player in Come Clean appears to be Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence and ubiquitous master of media and political manipulation. Mr. Smith — who refers to himself as “Dr. Rick Smith” — has waged so many phony environmental campaigns we’ve lost track, although one of his greatest triumphs is to have worked himself so deep into Health Canada’s war on safe chemicals that the department recently issued a news release citing Mr. Smith’s approval of Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq’s plan to ban phthalates in children’s toys and care products—even though there is no evidence of risk. When you can get a Conservative government to ban a safe product, you deserve credit for something.
In Come Clean, our man is aligned with the Sierra Club, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (presumably a counterforce to the Canadian Association of Physicians Against the Environment) and the Sustainable Energy Association of Ontario, an industry lobby group headed by Kristopher Stevens, another master of the arts of backroom political manoeuvring in search of billion-dollar subsidies.
Come Clean’s objective, said Mr. Smith in a Monday news release, is to “hit back at the confusing environmental rhetoric coming from Ontario’s elected politicians.” The “major confusion,” said the release, is Ontario’s renewable energy policy.
When it comes to confusing environmental rhetoric, however, it’s hard to beat the words of Mr. Smith’s associate, Mr. Stevens. “Ontarians deserve to know whether the jobs that clean energy creates … will vanish,” he said. “If elected officials want fewer new jobs and dirty coal, they should come clean and say so.”
The confusion here is deep and deliberate, and based on a false alternative. The option is not between dirty coal and clean energy. It’s between good policy and real job creation and investment. Without massive subsidies, there might be fewer jobs in solar power and fewer investment windfalls for promoters and speculators. But economic logic suggests Ontario would have more jobs and investment without the green energy subsidies.
It’s up to Come Clean to come clean on green jobs.