Obama Green Jobs Con Job and the Ill Wind That Blows from Spain
Barack Obama will give yet another major "jobs" speech this week. Ho-hum. For all the ballyhoo, he has been giving these for years. Most of America will tune out and instead look forward to his speech being over so they can celebrate something consequential: the start of NFL Football.
Obama has become tiresome. He is over-exposed. He has overstayed his welcome. We can hear the clichés that will be laced through his speech even before he speaks -- the opposite of an echo. The promises will be there -- what else can he sell? Certainly not his record on the economy.
He has always been a snake oil salesman; such people always tempt the needy with promises of great things to come. So we will once more hear him tout his policies as creating legions of new "green jobs" while making America the world leader in green energy. We have heard it before. He must either think we are stuck on stupid or he is the one stuck on stupid. This policy has clearly been one giant Green Jobs Con Job.
Those green jobs we have been promised have been a mirage. They are often temporary in nature and come at an extraordinary high price. Loan guarantees, mandates, feed-in tariffs, outright gifts of taxpayer money and other assorted goodies from the government have gone to bolster the prospects of profiteers and not the paychecks of workers. Often the money eventually flows to China to buy products (solar panels, wind turbines, rare earth minerals). The billions for green energy buried in the stimulus bill and the budget of the Department of Energy have been a stimulus all right: to China. But not only have the Chinese benefitted.
Obama's spending has also enriched various venture capitalist supporters in Silicon Valley and other enclaves where Barack Obama is still popular. The billions that have flowed out of Washington (that is, from us) have brightened the prospects for such Green Entrepreneurs as Al Gore, the political prospects of the Biden family in Delaware (the electric car company Fisker Automotive got hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars from Uncles Barack and Joe Biden to open a factory in Delaware of all places -- despite the fact that most new car factories now are located in right-to-work states; but the Biden political dynasty needs all the help it can get back home).
The billions tucked away here and there in Obama's trillion dollar budgets serve as a slush fund to enrich people under the Democrats' "friends and family program" (such as the Carnahan political dynasty in Missouri, enriched by stimulus money poured into a wind farm owned by a prominent member of that family; and the Kanjorksi clan in Pennsylvania -- the nephew of then Congressman Paul Kanjorski worked for companies, including a Spanish solar company, that received hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks and grants for green energy ventures). These billions have also been a way to pay back donors and Bundlers for Barack.
The latest scandal to come to light is the immorality tale of Solynda -- a solar company that had failure stamped all over it according to private and government analysts, but that nevertheless was granted a 500 million dollar plus loan guarantee by Obama's Department of Energy through a process that ignored government rules meant to protect taxpayers. It was a process that seemingly was greased by active intervention by the White House and perhaps frequent visits to the White House by George Kaiser, whose foundation is the single largest private investor in Solyndra.
Kaiser is a major Democratic donor and bundler for Barack Obama. The Energy Information Administration says that 14.7 billion dollars in taxpayers' money was handed directly to renewable energy companies last year. Recall that it was President Obama himself who defined politics as a way to "reward friends."
The jobs being protected by this outpouring of money are those of Obama and Biden and their friends in the federal government and Democratic Party.
But, I digress . Obama doesn't mention his donors that benefit from his spending; he instead touts the jobs being generated -- if not the electricity (because these ventures seldom generate any). As the Weekly Standard aptly puts it "green jobs have become a euphemism for crony capitalism" .
In 2009, Obama dedicated $7.2 billion dollars of stimulus to build 'clean tech" jobs.
How has he done so far on that job front?
There is a litany of failed efforts to create jobs. Three hundred million dollars went to Johnson Controls to make electric batteries. According to the White House, which errs on the side of optimism if not delusion, that led to the creation of ...drum roll please...150 jobs. That comes out to a cost of $2 million per job. Investor's Business Daily has listed more examples of the "Wasted Stimulus" but the examples abound are far too numerous to list in a single column. Green jobs are a myth-like unicorns, writes Walter Russell Mead.
The headlines say it all. Even the non-partisan but left-leaning Politico recently published a column regarding how "Green Jobs success eludes Obama." But the ultimate shock to the body politic was when no less than the New York Times ran a column headlined "Number of Green Jobs Fails to Live Up to Promises." Aaron Glantz wrote in this piece:
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.
The weatherization program was initially delayed for seven months while the federal Department of Labor determined prevailing wage standards for the industry. Even after that issue was resolved, the program never really caught on.
Ironically, job growth has been stalled because of the unions' insistence that the Davis-Bacon Act be followed and not waived by President Obama. This union-favored act requires workers on federally-funded projects be paid the prevailing wage standards for the type of work in that area. Those "prevailing" wages usually are determined to be high union wages. Abiding by the Davis-Bacon Act (which can be waived by the President, as George Bush did after Katrina to speed job growth and reconstruction) is a way to make unions -- if not taxpayers who foot the bill -- happy.
Glantz reminds readers that Obama pledged to create 5 million green jobs over 10 years but that the results so far suggest such numbers are a "pipe dream".
It is a useful exercise to compare and contrast the job growth in the oil and gas industry versus that of the green economy. In other words, compare reality versus fantasy. Stephen Moore writes in the Wall Street Journal:
President Obama is expected to seek another $250 billion or so in new stimulus funds next week, with plenty of money for clean energy and the creation of so-called green jobs.
Never mind that no one can seem to find many Americans who got green jobs as a result of the original stimulus spending.
Moore does note that energy jobs are being created at a rapid clip, but in the one sector that Obama considers a mortal political enemy and villain; the oil and gas industry.
According to data from the Federal Reserve Board's Industrial Production Indexes, the oil and gas industry, which the Obama Energy Department loathes, has had more growth in output than any other manufacturing industry in the U.S. from 2005 through 2011. As a reward, the administration is proposing $35 billion in new taxes on the industry to slow it down. Even if we accept the dubious White House claim that all the oil and gas tax write-offs are unwarranted loopholes, a 2011 Congressional Research Service study finds that per unit of electricity produced, for every two cents of tax subsidy to Big Oil, Big Green (wind and solar) get closer to $1 in handouts.
A huge source of this job growth that has revitalized communities and enriched government coffers with lease payments and taxes has been the shale gas industry -- that Obama and fellow Democrats seem determined to stop (see "Cheap natural gas and its Democratic Enemies").
But we get the spin about green energy and green jobs.
But how did such a dream-such a green scheme-get started and how will it run its course?
Spain: A Precursor of Our Future Under Obama
I recently had a chance to interview Gabriel Calzada, an economics professor from Spain, whose pioneering work on the interplay between green energy subsides and job creation has been widely cited. His conclusion, backed up by data and facts not blind hope, is that 2.2 jobs are lost for each one "created" by government promotion of green energy jobs. Money is taken from productive parts of the economy and channeled for political purposes into wasteful green energy projects. The damage is compounded by the very high energy prices that come from the "free" energy of the sun and wind. His work is especially relevant because Obama has praised Spain no fewer than eight times as a role model for a green economy.
So how sunny are the prospects for Spain?
Gianluca Baratti of Bloomberg News writes in "Job Losses from Obama Green Stimulus Foreseen in Spanish Study":
Subsidizing renewable energy in the U.S. may destroy two jobs for every one created if Spain's experience with windmills and solar farms is any guide.
For every new position that depends on energy price supports, at least 2.2 jobs in other industries will disappear, according to a study from King Juan Carlos University in Madrid...
The premiums paid for solar, biomass, wave and wind power - - which are charged to consumers in their bills -- translated into a $774,000 cost for each Spanish "green job" created since 2000, said Gabriel Calzada, an economics professor at the university and author of the report.
"The loss of jobs could be greater if you account for the amount of lost industry that moves out of the country due to higher energy prices," he said in an interview.
When I asked Professor Calzada about the genesis of Spain's green energy program he answered that it was the desire of Spanish political elites to be "world leaders" that drove the program -- and the Spanish economy off the cliff. Ironically, it was the Conservative Party in Spain that created the legislation that led to this disaster (it allowed so called feed-in tariffs to boost prices paid for renewable energy; California is among the states in America that have similar programs). But it was the socialists who used this law to create a vast renewable power industry fueled by government taxing, borrowing, and spending.
It was the desire of political elites to be perceived to be world leaders that led to this disaster. That certainly has echoes here in America when such terminology is repeatedly used by Barack Obama to justify his Green Schemes. It would not be the first time that personal ego played a role in damaging a nation. Indeed, Barack Obama seems to have a bit of an Edifice Complex --the problem arises when we have to pay for monuments that gratify his ego.
Professor Calzada explained that jobs were not the initial impetus behind the launch of vast programs to set up wind and solar farms. That only came later when promoters grasped onto then as a way to rationalize continued wasteful spending. Then banks and other financial institutions joined the party, lending vast sums to the promoters of the ventures. A vicious circle developed; banks were so heavily invested in these boondoggles that pulling the plug on government spending would bankrupt many of the Green Energy companies they had extended loans to. So then banks, to protect their own future, started promoting green energy programs and the prospects of politicians who would stand with them. Jobs would be lost, loans would go bad, companies would go bankrupt -- so the spending spree continued. But, as Margaret Thatcher noted, the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money.
Spain is now teetering on the brink of economic ruin. All the solar and wind farms on the sun-drenched plains of Spain will not restore the nation to health. They are saddled with sky-high energy bills (the price of electricity has soared over 100% since the Socialist took power in 2004) and weighed down by vast amounts of debt spent to boost the egos of politicians and line the pockets of profiteers who depend on them.
The victims of course were the Spanish people -- those who lost their jobs, those who faced a bleak economy, and those in years to come who will be responsible for paying back the vast amounts borrowed to fuel these pipedreams. There is some hope though: the Socialists have recently been trounced in the polls. The Spanish people are rebelling.
They are also trying to warn us. There has been a tsunami of solar bankruptcies in Spain as subsides have been cut. One Spanish newspaper had a headline, "Spain admits that the green economy sold to Obama is a ruin ." That is the same snake oil he is trying to peddle to Americans.
I had the opportunity to ask Professor Calzada if he had been in contact with the Obama administration. He said that he had twice tried to contact Energy Secretary Chu to inform him that he was coming to America and would be more than happy to meet with administration officials to discuss his work on green energy programs and job creation. Chu was too busy to meet with Calzada. Nor would he even send an underling to discuss Calzada's findings. Wasn't this the team that prided itself on respecting science and facts and listening to the views of others?
Calzada also volunteered that the Center for America Progress (CAP) has roundly criticized his work. This is the Obama-allied think tank funded to a large extent by George Soros. The opposition from the CAP is no surprise. Soros has proclaimed that he will invest at least a billion dollars in "green energy." Soros has also been a major supporter of Barack Obama, whose policies look to benefit his political patron. Soros himself spilled the beans when he said in a New Yorker profile that there are "symbiotic moments between political and business interests". We are living in such a moment now.
Obama never seems to learn while in office. He will again double down on the failed policies that have already caused a great deal of damage and will be even more harmful in years to come as we follow the Spanish model.
Calzada ended our conversation with a poignant question: why are we trying to harm ourselves?
A better question for Americans might be: why is Obama trying to harm us and how do we stop him?
Ed Lasky is news editor of American Thinker.