WMDs in Iraq = abundant green jobs: Myths used to sell mistakes

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s speech at the climate change conference last Thursday was overshadowed by Gov. Jerry Brown’s red-meat speech for green true believers, but it was a piece of work — 20 minutes or so of him telling the crowd how great he was because of AB 32 and how great they were for thinking he was great. In addressing climate change, the rest of the world doesn’t “have to have any debates — just follow California,” Arnold said. “Going green is great for the economy. It’s great for job creation.” Groan. Where are all the ballyhooed “fact check” journalists on junk like this? Shouldn’t the recent reports in The New York Times and The Washington Post finally embolden the rest of the media to hold greens to the same standards as other powerful groups?

The argument we’re supposed to believe is that sure, a forced switch to cleaner but costlier forms of energy will hurt some parts of the economy and transfer more costs to consumers and to businesses, but the upside of a flourishing green economy will more than make up for the pain that California suffers.

This theory hasn’t panned out anywhere in the world. It was a huge flop in Spain. The respected McKinsey consulting group said last year that green jobs would be a niche in the economy akin to semiconductors and that it was simply wrong to liken the green sector to mass manufacturing such as automobiles or steel-making.

But for years, greens and their media allies have made the nutty conflation that having skepticism about green happy talk on the economy equals heretical questioning of climate change conventional wisdom. It doesn’t.

Finally, in recent months, the two most powerful newspapers in the U.S. bothered to take this crucial issue seriously. In August, The New York Times offered a withering assessment:

In the Bay Area as in much of the country, the green economy is not proving to be the job-creation engine that many politicians envisioned. President Obama once pledged to create five million green jobs over 10 years. Gov. Jerry Brown promised 500,000 clean-technology jobs statewide by the end of the decade. But the results so far suggest such numbers are a pipe dream. ….

A study released in July by the non-partisan Brookings Institution found clean-technology jobs accounted for just 2 percent of employment nationwide and only slightly more — 2.2 percent — in Silicon Valley. Rather than adding jobs, the study found, the sector actually lost 492 positions from 2003 to 2010 in the South Bay, where the unemployment rate in June was 10.5 percent.

Federal and state efforts to stimulate creation of green jobs have largely failed, government records show. Two years after it was awarded $186 million in federal stimulus money to weatherize drafty homes, California has spent only a little over half that sum and has so far created the equivalent of just 538 full-time jobs in the last quarter, according to the State Department of Community Services and Development.  ….

Job training programs intended for the clean economy have also failed to generate big numbers. The Economic Development Department in California reports that $59 million in state, federal and private money dedicated to green jobs training and apprenticeship has led to only 719 job placements — the equivalent of an $82,000 subsidy for each one.

In September, a Washington Post report on the green-jobs program that the Obama administration had hyped for more than two years showed that it was a flop, both in general and compared to what we were told it would accomplish.

WASHINGTON — A $38.6 billion loan guarantee program that the Obama administration promised would create or save 65,000 jobs has created just a few thousand new jobs two years after it began, government records show.

The program, designed to jump-start the nation’s clean technology industry by giving energy companies access to low-cost, government-backed loans, has directly created 3,545 new, permanent jobs after giving out almost half the allocated amount, according to Energy Department tallies.

President Barack Obama has made “green jobs” a showcase of his recovery plan, vowing to foster new jobs, new technologies and more competitive American industries.  …

Obama’s efforts to create green jobs is lagging behind expectations at a time of persistently high unemployment. ….

“There are good reasons to create green jobs, but they have more to do with green than with jobs,” Princeton University economics professor and former Federal Reserve vice chairman Alan Blinder has said. ….

The Energy Department says the green-jobs program is still on track to meet its employment goals. It claims credit for saving 33,000 jobs at Ford Motor Co., about half of the Detroit automaker’s entire hourly and salaried U.S. workforce. …

Several economists said they doubt the loan program saved 33,000 jobs at Ford.

“I always take these job estimates with a big grain of salt,” Josh Lerner, a Harvard Business School professor who has written about failed government efforts to stimulate targeted industries, said in an e-mail. “There tends to be a lot of fuzzy math when it comes to calculating these benefits (regardless of the party taking credit for the program).”

Even it if were true, what about the farcical aspect of claiming that the biggest achievement in green jobs was in helping keep intact the jobs at a company whose main gig is making vehicles burning fossil fuels? More than HALF of the green jobs touted by the Obama White House were at Ford.

The green jobs are to our environmental and economic policies as the WMDs were to Bush 43′s Iraq policy: a key rationale for profoundly important decisions that turned out to be a lie.

When will the media allow itself to climb out of the green tank and point out the WMDs … err, the green jobs … are missing?

Or maybe it’s not just Arnold smoking the green crack. To rephrase my earlier point, questioning what appear to be repeated and calculated lies about green jobs is not akin to wanting pollution to kill us all. It’s just not. In most places, it is what used to be called Journalism 101.

UPDATE, 9 P.M., DEC. 20: Thanks to John and Ken of KFI AM 640 for doing a full segment on this post. Yeah, I know, the link gets their station wrong, but it’s easier to navigate than the KFI link, which requires you hunt for this in a much longer overall audio clip.

3 thoughts on “WMDs in Iraq = abundant green jobs: Myths used to sell mistakes

  1. Love your site, can you please get a twitter button, thanks :)

    Editor’s note: Thanks very much — the Twitter follow button is on the home page — the handle is calwhine.

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