Monday, May 04, 2009

Green jobs

In 2007, wind and solar generated less than 1 percent of U.S. electricity. Even a tenfold expansion will leave their contribution small. By contrast, oil and natural gas now provide two-thirds of Americans' energy. They will dominate consumption for decades. Any added oil produced here will mostly reduce imports; extra natural gas will mostly displace coal in electricity generation. Neither threatens any anti-global warming program that Congress might adopt.

Encouraging more U.S. production would also aid economic recovery, because the promise of "green jobs" is wildly exaggerated. Consider: In 2008, the oil and gas industries employed 1.8 million people. Jobs in the solar and wind industries are reckoned (by their trade associations) to be 35,000 and 85,000, respectively. Now do the arithmetic: A 5 percent rise in oil jobs (90,000) approaches a doubling for wind and solar (120,000). Modest movements, up or down, in oil will swamp "green" jobs.
The more one examines this green energy/jbos initiative the more one sees it is rooted far more in ideology than fact. Oil remains both cheap and plentiful, yet we are going to spend billions to move towards a more expensive forms of energy that promise little return in terms of jobs.

Of course, if alternative energy provided cheap energy with high returns on investment the private sector would already be pumping money into the sector. The very fact that government expenditures are needed to make such projects viable demonstrates their folly.

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