A friend of mine asked for my response to an article titled The False Promise of Green Jobs. The article contends that “green” governmental policies will not result in net creation of jobs because
A. these new green jobs will be offset by job losses in the “conventional” energy sector and
B. green energy is more expensive than conventional energy so its increased costs will cut overall productivity and spending.
In response to A, all I can do is wonder if anyone really bemoans the rise of the IT sector (and IT jobs) at the expense of, say, the typewriter industry. Clinging desperately to obsolete industries may prop up employment in the short-term, but it ensures a decline in competitiveness in the long term.
In response to B, I can’t disagree more with the notion that “green” energy is more expensive than “conventional” energy. We currently externalize the environmental, health, and social costs of producing energy “conventionally,” such that the price the consumer sees is much lower than reality. Our governments also provide significant tax breaks and incentives to conventional energy companies, which allow them to sell energy so cheaply while still generating record-breaking profits. This is all part of an implicit contract we have that guarantees citizens access to limitless, incredibly subsidized energy. Capture the true costs of conventional energy and take away all of the big corporate incentives, and I think you will see a very different cost comparison result.
Furthermore, this author is very narrowly only considering green energy generation when making claims about costs. However, he neglects the companies making great advances in greener energy distribution, storage, and efficiency, all of which make energy – regardless of its source – much less expensive. My company, for example, reduces a business’s energy costs 25%, freeing up capital that can be used for, say, employment.
The biggest fallacy of all in this article, though, is the focus on job creation. If a government is pursuing a policy in the name of creating jobs simply for the sake of creating jobs, well, that’s socialism. This isn’t a big surprise coming from a Scandinavian (where governments are generally relatively socialist) author. In the US, though, where we claim to be capitalists, green businesses should be supported not because they charitably create jobs, rather because they make sound economic sense, increase energy security, and help us operate as a much more robust, independent, efficient society.
My green business has created only two green jobs so far and we plan to create many more. However, policy arguments focused on green job creation alone are totally missing the point.