A new study published by the University Of Illinois College Of Law sheds light on the myths and the reality surrounding the recent proposal by many policy makers, activists, and politicians to “green the economy” and provide struggling countries – particularly the US – with “millions of green jobs.”
“Green Jobs Myths” is jointly written by Andrew P. Morriss, University of Illinois; William T. Bogart, York College of Pennsylvania; Andrew Dorchak, Case Western Reserve University; and Roger E. Meiners, University of Texas – Arlington. Its abstract points out that “a rapidly growing literature promises that a massive program of government mandates, subsidies, and forced technological interventions will reward the nation with an economy brimming with ‘green jobs.’ Not only will these jobs improve the environment, but they will be high-paying, interesting, and provide collective rights.”
The authors go on to say that this literature is constructed on mythologies about economics, forecasting, and technology.
The study focuses its analysis on the recent efforts to provide a full description of green jobs by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (Mayors) report, the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) report and the Center for American Progress (CAP) report. “All these reports attempt comprehensive analyses, providing greater detail than the anecdotal claims elsewhere,” according to the new study.
The authors of Green Jobs Myths determine three key factors from the literature. First, the authors examine the problems with each report’s attempt to define when a job qualifies as “green” and to calculate how many supposed green jobs exist. Second, the study examines how the green jobs literature treats key economic concepts and finds that it makes fundamental economic errors in its analysis. Third, the study examines specific areas of technology where the authors believe the green jobs literature makes errors that typify it as a whole. The authors conclude by suggesting, “Deep skepticism is the most appropriate response to the hyperbolic claims of the green jobs literature.”
According to the authors, the most comprehensive piece of green jobs literature is the UNEP report. In its summary, the study shows the scope of the transformation that would be required of the American economy, the world economy, and society to implement green jobs proposals. The suggestions put forth by the UNEP report are fundamentally geared toward a complete restructuring of modern society and the world economy. Green jobs are described as a means of achieving its programmatic goals. However, unlike most green jobs reports, UNEP states that existing jobs will be destroyed as disfavored methods of production are forced to cease and replaced by new, preferred methods of production.
While many of the domestic reports viewed in this study propose that green jobs programs are a “win-win,” the UNEP report does not pretend that this policy implementation is a simple matter nor does it sugarcoat the massive structural changes that would be needed. In addition, the UNEP report does not pretend to know exactly how many jobs will be created decades from now, or that the costs can be known. The authors point out in their analysis that the UNEP report makes clear the broad scope of the social change it proposes, which is a change to virtually every aspect of daily life: from where people live, where their food comes from, how they commute to work, and even to what they do at work. If implemented, all of these would be dramatically altered from their current existence.
Overall, the authors observe that the green jobs literature focuses on phasing out virtually all of the country’s current energy sources, roughly 93%. Currently, only about 7% of our energy comes from what are called “renewable” sources. Green jobs promoters assert that 93% of our energy should be eliminated – energy used for heating and cooling homes, schools, and offices; powering cars and transport vehicles; and providing power for industry and agriculture, creating every good most people enjoy.
Former Vice President Al Gore has stated that our current sources of electricity (40% of all energy in the US) should be eliminated within a decade. However, the authors point out the 10% of electricity in the US comes from renewable sources. With wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass representing about 3% of the nation’s electricity generation capacity, even with rising capacity these technologies will continue to represent a mere fraction within 10 years.
Some of the myths surrounding green jobs proposals defined by the authors of the new study include the notion that everyone understands what a “green job” is. The reality: no standard definition of “green job” exists. Advocates report that creating green jobs will boost productive employment; however, the reality is that many green job estimates include huge numbers of clerical, bureaucratic, and administrative positions that do not produce goods and services for consumption.
The authors report that many proponents of green jobs feel that current forecasts are reliable. According to this study, much of the green jobs literature has based estimates on poor economic models using dubious assumptions. In addition, it is believed that green jobs promote employment growth. The fact is that by promoting more jobs instead of more productivity, the green jobs described in the literature will be low-paying and in less than desirable working conditions. The United Nations and Congress cannot simply mandate economic growth. The study also says that government interference such as restricting successful technologies in favor of speculative technologies favored by special interests will inevitably generate stagnation.
Perhaps the most astounding myth put forth by the green jobs mentality is that government mandates are a substitute for free markets. The truth is that companies react more swiftly and efficiently to the demands of their customers and markets than to cumbersome government mandates.
The “Green Jobs Myths” paper concludes that literature supporting green jobs claims is rife with internal contradictions, vague terminology, dubious science, and ignorance of basic economic principles. “Indeed, the green jobs literature claims resemble the promises of long-term financial prosperity offered by Ponzi schemes. New taxes, increased public borrowing , and government subsidies will be needed to support green jobs programs. We find no evidence that these ‘investments’ in green jobs can support the promised results,” the authors add.
The real purpose of the green jobs initiative is not to create jobs, but to remake society. This analysis purports that sweeping changes advocated in these reports under the premise of “greening our economy” are intended to shift the American and world economies away from decentralized decision making. The authors state that its real intent is to move in favor of centralized planning. Instead of allowing individuals to voluntarily trade in free markets, green jobs advocates would instead discourage trade and give central planners and politicians the reigns to choose which technologies could move forward as well as determine the choices faced by consumers and workers. Cloaking these policy shifts within the topic of green jobs, advocates of drastic economic policy shifts hope to avoid heated debates over the massive and costly changes they want to impose.
In an interview, Andrew R. Morriss, lead author for “Green Jobs Myths,” stated the dangers of diametrically opposing so-called “green jobs” against what many proponents classify as “less desirable forms of production” – jobs in the oil and gas industry.
Morriss said, “I think it is wrong to position green jobs as opposed to a fossil-fuel based economy. Jobs in refining - making it more efficient - are just as green as jobs in solar power.” Morriss and his coauthors emphasize, “The US economy has been steadily getting greener through market forces for at least 100 years, as cost pressures drive firms to innovate to be more efficient to cut costs.
“The current debate is an obfuscation of the real issues – what most of the people demanding the government spend billions on green jobs are trying to get is a substantial shift in the nature of our economy. If you read the UN Environment Programme report, for example, you can see this pretty clearly – they want less trade, more expensive energy, less fossil fuel use, etc.”
The debate, contrary to what most green jobs proponents currently believe, is far from over. The shining medallion being put forth as the green-engineered future is a pipe dream to say the least. Fossil fuels provide the infrastructure, the income, and ingenuity for most economies to thrive. To supplant this massive, proven network with technologies that are promising – but hardly scalable – is a vision that is not based in reality.
“Green Job Myths” contains 97 pages and is replete with graphs and statistics on the subject of green jobs and energy production. This paper should be required reading for anyone with a stake in the energy industry. To download a free full version of the above paper visit http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1358423#