Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I Have A Green Job For You

Once again, it appears that the marriage of the MSM to the Obama administration has hit a serious rough spot. Another crack has appeared in the united facade of the two lovebirds, and of all places, in The Washington Post. In an article entitled "The green jobs myth," writer Sunil Sharan says a lot of what we've been saying for months. Sharan to Obama: Your green jobs are phonies, and they're going to kill real jobs.

Amid the news that jobless claims were up another 22,000 in the last week, Sharan questions "how valid is the assumption that a 'clean energy' economy will generate enough jobs to mitigate today's high level of unemployment? And to meet the needs of future generations?" Shanal knows whereof he speaks. He has spent most of his adult life in the clean energy sector, and was at one time the Director of The Smart Grid Initiative at General Electric. His views on the incestuous relationship between G.E. and the Department of Energy do not sit well with the corporate fat cats that the Obamists claim to hate.

Sharan then goes on to discuss the clean energy sector and the smart grid for its job-creation potential. And he finds it wanting. He points out that the Obama administration allocated about $4 billion in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to the smart grid. Nothing like that kind of money has ever been thrown at green energy before. And if it were going somewhere significant, it might be worth it. Most of that money has actually gone into "smart meters." 20 million of them over the next five years. These dandy devices replace old-fashioned spinning meters that have to be read by meter-readers, and instead send the usage information directly to the utility company. Experience in Europe (where the smart meters have been in place in large areas for awhile) shows that the new meters replace human intervention (obviously), and create four categories of jobs: installation, manufacturing, research and development, and internet technology services.

Installation jobs would largely disappear in five years or less, but would create a temporary addition of new jobs. Don't forget that current meter-readers could largely be trained to be installers, so much of this area will be jobs saved rather than jobs created. But once the installations are completed, a previously ongoing job will be almost completely eliminated, resulting in a very large net loss of jobs.

Manufacturing is basically a wash, since manufacturers will simply switch from manufacturing the old meters to manufacturing the new ones. During the conversion, it will create or save jobs, but in the long run will be a small net loss in the field. The R&D sector will feel a temporary surge (no pun intended), but it won't be huge, and most of the R&D will be devoted to improving on the already-existing European smart models. That means that the ongoing R&D sector will quickly settle back into its current levels. The IT jobs will essentially be all-new. But as anyone who has watched his job become automated knows, for every job created, a great many more will be permanently lost. One computer operator will be doing the job previously being done by thousands of meter-readers nationwide.

One can only conclude that the whole business of modernizing is a net good, but for creating jobs, it's a bust. How much greener will the environment be when the meter-readers no longer move from block to block, occasionally hopping into their mandated fuel-efficient carts to go on to the next location? In more rural areas, it will be a minor improvement, but at what cost to jobs? More on point, how many union jobs will be lost? I wonder if Obama thought of that. It's hard to get a smart meter to join a union.

Sharan concludes quite fairly that anything that will improve the air quality and reduce our dependence on foreign oil is a good thing. But he is also accurate in pointing out that the "'job-creation potential' of the green space might just end up inducing labor pains all around." His studies indicated that at best, such green type jobs create one job for every two lost. The green energy data I've seen from Spain indicated that for every two jobs created, nine were lost. But that's pretty close either way. No matter how noble the goal of green energy may be, for the foreseeable future it is on balance a job-killer more than a job-creator.

24 comments:

LL said...

The only "green jobs" that would have any validity today would be jobs related to the construction of more nuclear power plants. And we know the Obama Administration opposes that. And that Harry (not in my back yard) Reid opposes storing spent nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain, NV.

AndrewPrice said...

The problem with the idea of "green jobs" is that you are talking about spending money on something the market won't pay for. That's called misallocation of resources.

You're just shifting jobs back and forth between sectors with the current plans, and creating more unemployment that employment in the process.

The only "green jobs" that would really work well are those that either make the system more efficient (which isn't their goal) or those that take jobs from overseas -- like shifting to American oil production or converting to natural gas.

Beyond that, this is all a pipe dream.

LawHawkSF said...

LL: I'm definitely with you on the nuclear power plants. They should stick Reid in the Yucca Mountain facility, and then cover him over with the spent fuel. Then you'd have spent fuel and a spent fool.

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: Almost all green energy proposals have negatives that far exceed their positives. There will come a day when many of these plans can be initiated. This is not the time. We can't afford the cost or the loss in jobs while pursuing slightly cleaner ways of doing what we can already do if we use our own resources instead of buying them from middle east tyrants. Clean-coal technology, nuclear power plants and drilling and refining in America can accomplish so much. They're not perfect, but then nothing is, and what they lack can't be cured by technologies which haven't even been developed yet.

Joel Farnham said...

I don't have a problem with a meter that reads the energy use remotely. The problem I foresee is the remote control aspect. The big brother concept.

Claiming it does something that it does not is normal for this administration and congress.

LawHawkSF said...

Joel: I understand fully that there is no end to the deviousness the government can attempt. But in this case, we're really discussing if this green energy initiative is a net plus or minus for the job market. I think most of us see it as a major net loss for what we so desperately need now--private sector jobs.

Writer X said...

Maybe the administration will blame the continued job loss on the snow? Or the heat (depending on the season)?

A few years ago, my utility reader for my house in Phoenix was replaced with one of the "smart readers." I can't help but wonder if the utility companies would have done it anyway, not because it's "green" but because it makes business sense in some situations. Even so, despite the decrease in utility personnel (presumably), utility trucks, etc., my utility bills only increase. And in the last couple of years, has gone WAY up. So much for going green.

LawHawkSF said...

WriterX: Don't feel too bad. I still have one of the old dumb meters, and my gas and electric bills have gone through the roof. The basic bills went up some, but the added charges, surcharges, taxes and energy use taxes have almost doubled my bills over the same time last year. It's part of the Gore/Schwarzenegger plan. As temperatures drop from global warming, taxes and fees rise to meet unemployment. Brilliant, no?

BevfromNYC said...

*******NEWS ALERT*****Charlie Rangel just temporarily resigned Ways and Means Chairmanship. Sander Levin taking over. There is speculation that he might not seek re-election! MSNBC.

LawHawkSF said...

Bev: That's certainly an interesting development. Frankly, I thought Rangel would stick it out until they were forced to drag him off physically.

HamiltonsGhost said...

Lawhawk--You and Andrew are both right. Some good things can be done that won't show positive results for years. That's something that can be done in boom times. But not now, and not with this economy. The government should be doing everything it can to create real, sustainable jobs outside of government, not diddling around with jobs that aren't sustainable and may take decades to come to fruition. As your article concludes, green jobs are job killers.

LawHawkSF said...

HamiltonsGhost: That's right on the money. NASA is a good example of government spending that produced short-term jobs and large expenditures which ultimately ended up creating mountains of wealth (the tech industries, particularly). We don't have that option until this economy is turned around, and that won't happen until private business is released from the governmental stranglehold. I'll take a little temporary air pollution for now if it gets millions of Americans back to work and creates the wealth that sustains a free and healthy nation.

Americans don't want gifts and government handouts. They want jobs and they want businesses that create jobs. Real jobs.

CalFederalist said...

Lawhawk. Green, schmeen. I'm fed up the teeth with environmental zealots who destroy the economy with hare-brained schemes and pie in the sky. We have a crisis now, and what we don't need is a solution that might or might not work twenty years from now. Let Obama and the gang take some of those unused funds, and hand them over in some form to private industry and private business--the only real job creators.

If they are determined to "go green," let them give the money to private energy companies who are working on "green technology" and job creation. Preferably not to companies already in bed with the greenie weenies in DC (like General Electric).

Who gives a damn how "smart" a meter is if it takes money away from human beings and swallows it up without having made an iota of difference in preventing air pollution?

LawHawkSF said...

CalFed: I think that most of us would love to have cleaner air and unimpeded vistas. It's a great goal, and we'll probably reach it someday. But not now, and not this way. The funds I referenced aren't even going toward advancing technology such as wind power (so far a bust, killing more raptors than producing kilowatts), solar power (a teaspoon of water in the Pacific Ocean, and now being slowed down here in California by Mojave Desert lizard protectors), and hydrogen-powered cars (which are expected to fly and do your waterless laundry, I suppose).

So your point is well-taken. Why spend money on smart meters when it could be spent on real jobs for real human beings. Better yet, how about returning all those unused TARP funds to the taxpayers and let them figure out how to spend it? So far, the government has spent it very foolishly.

Tennessee Jed said...

. . . a great post, Hawk. Having pretty much given up on WaPo, I would have missed this entirely. To me, the news here is not that the whole green jobs thing was a fantasy. Hell, we all knew that instinctively, didn't we?

It was either a case of "why let facts get in the way of a good campaign fairy tale?" or the MSM liberal chorus medley of Louie Armstrong's "what a wonderful world" coupled with the Beach Boys' "wouldn't it be nice."

No the real news for me is that Wapo would print this criticism. That is encouraging, and thanks, my friend, for pointing it out.

LawHawkSF said...

Tennessee: I venture off into enemy territory as often as possible just to see what they're up to. Occasionally, I get a surprise, such as the Sharan article. For instance, I read The New Republic online daily, and in the nine months we've been publishing this blog, I've only found two "surprise" articles to comment on positively (I'm not counting the ones that were so absolutely wrong-headed that I felt it necessary to comment on them negatively).

It's also a constant amazement to me that what the average Joe can see so clearly requires someone with unusual credentials for publication in the WaPo or NY Times to explain the issue in lofty terms acceptable to the pseudo-intellectuals in the MSM.

LawHawkSF said...

Tennessee: PS, did you like the Crosley Federal Building picture? Was I lying, or does it really look like a Crosley clock-radio from the fifties?

Tennessee Jed said...

Hawk, you never lie. It is, in fact, a dead ringer for those old plastic chrome-like radios of yore (Philco and Motorola where art thou?) My parents maintaned one of those in their house forever it seems.

LawHawkSF said...

Tennessee: My mom traded in our old RCA 15" TV for a Philco 21" with that halo around the screen, and my dad had one of the first Motorola portable radios that was transistorized. The big handle on the radio rotated and was the antenna. The TV was some kind of awful blond wood, and the radio was covered in fake ostrich skin.

StanH said...

Once again our eggheaded Keynesian Boy King, completely misunderstands our free market economy. “Necessity is the mother of invention,” get out of the way and, American entrepreneurial spirit, will find solutions to any problem whether real or perceived. By using a top down business model, only smothers venture capital leading to nepotism and invariably cronyism, in other words GE doesn’t think it up, it ain’t gonna happen.
Some exciting developments from small business “The Bloom Box,” being developed in Silicon Valley, self contained home power, it takes you completely off the grid. They did an expose’ on 60 Minutes, very exciting.
On FOX News, Pat Boone introduced a “Compressed Air Car,” runs on compressed air, distance approx: 40 miles and will travel at 35 to 45 MPH, great for inner city living.

The point is, get the hell out of the way and America will figure the problem out.

Dig the Green Goblin metaphor!

LawHawkSF said...

StanH: So true. The government can come up with ideas, but they almost never relate directly to something people want or are willing to pay for (unless forced to pay). As you've mentioned, private enterprise is already working on "green" ideas, but they think in terms of "what will people buy?" That's what produces useful technology and permanent jobs.

Glad you caught the metaphor. LOL

patti said...

anything (job-discussion-festival) with the word green proceeding it engages my meter o'bullshit. most of the time that sucker is pegged in the danger zone...

reading this, it was ready to blow.

patti said...

law: oopsie, let me clarify. YOU didn't peg the meter, the story did. we all know you are incapable of being full of it. well, when it comes to this stuff anyway...

LawHawkSF said...

Patti: I didn't think for a minute that you were referring to little old moi. But--I've been known to be full of it when the occasion calls for it. LOL

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