Coal, Petroleum Offer More "Green" Jobs than Wind and Solar?

March 29, 2013

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Credit: njaj.

Credit: njaj.

It’s a favorite nostrum of the green energy camp that they employ more people than fossil fuel industries do in the United States. They point to the government’s statistics to bolster this claim, the most recent of which is Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) annual report on “Employment in Green Goods and Services.”

On March 14 of this year Daniel J. Weiss, senior fellow, Center for American Progress Action Fund offered testimony on “America’s Onshore Energy Resources: Creating Jobs, Securing America, and Lowering Prices” to the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources of the Committee on Natural Resources. As part of his testimony, he noted, “In 2010, 3.1 million jobs in the United States were associated with the production of green goods and services, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.”

Such GGS (green goods and services) jobs, Weiss said, accounted for 2.4 percent of total employment in 2010 -- “The private sector had 2.3 million GGS jobs and the public sector had 860,300. Manufacturing had 461,800 GGS jobs, the most among any private sector industry.”

He cited research from the Brookings Institution, which according to Weiss issued a 2011 report, “Sizing the Clean Economy,” finding that, “The clean economy, which employs some 2.7 million workers, encompasses a significant number of jobs in establishments spread across a diverse group of industries. Though modest in size, the clean economy employs more workers than the fossil fuel industry.”

A Stretch, Perhaps...

According to the BLS, however, there are, as the Obama Administration counts them, 3,278 green jobs in the coal and petroleum-manufacturing sector. No, that’s not a misprint -- 3,278 “green” jobs in coal and petroleum, compared to 3,246 green jobs in solar and wind power generation sectors.

Those probably aren’t statistics green job advocates highlight in their summaries and talking points.

The Washington Free Beacon quoted William Yeatman, an energy policy expert with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, as calling the BLS report “absurd” with an “impossibly broad” definition of green jobs: “There isn’t a sector of the economy that isn’t green if you believe this report.”

Why would anybody monkey around with what should be just another dry economic stat? Because the Obama Administration has made creating “green” jobs a high-profile promise. “President Barack Obama pledged on the 2008 campaign trail to create 5 million green jobs. The BLS report claims that 3.4 million Americans are employed in such jobs,” the Free Beacon wrote.

Bus Driver, Record Store Clerk, Other Green Jobs.

Last year this reporter noted how Bureau of Labor Statistics Acting Commissioner Josh Galvin, the man Forbes identified as the White House’s chief statistician on the matter, explained to a session of the House Oversight Committee what counts as a “green job.”

Here’s a YouTube video of Galvin responding to questions posed by Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Cal.) to clarify what jobs are “green,” according to the administration’s count. A quick transcription of the commissioner’s characterization of what the Obama administration is counting as green jobs:


So if that’s how the Obama Administration is counting “green” jobs, it’s less of a surprise that they would find more of them in the coal and petroleum industry than in wind and solar. Of course that renders the definition of “green job” functionally meaningless as well.

So What's The Point?

People are noticing. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee called BLS’s methodology “questionable” and told the Free Beacon that “This report appears to be highly inaccurate and I would question whether there is any value in keeping track of green jobs in the first place.”

Obviously if you’re counting clerks in used record stores, oil lobbyists, gas station attendants, and antique dealers as “green” jobs then yes, Rep. Pompeo is correct: Your statistics are meaningless. According to Pompeo, the Obama Administration is even counting movie producers as having “green” jobs.

The Free Beacon reports that this the second annual tally of the nation’s “green jobs” will be the last: “The report will be discontinued due to sequestration budget cuts that took effect this month.”

John Berlau, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market research group in Washington, told Businessweek recently that cutting the data reports would “leave the American people none the poorer... It is inherently subjective because there is no standard definition of what a green job is. When an employment survey starts from the premise that some jobs are better than others, it is propaganda.”

$2 Million Green Jobs? Count Us In.

And even the jobs that common sense would qualify as “green jobs” have been hit and miss. The Obama Administration placed a honey of a green jobs program in the Pacific Northwest, a $20 million federal grant in 2010 to weatherize homes -- which the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, reported on August 15, 2011 to be a "bust." The reporter writes, “As of last week, only three homes had been retrofitted and just 14 new jobs have emerged from the program. Many of the jobs are administrative, and not the entry-level pathways once dreamed for low-income workers.”

And even where government action has resulted in the creation of green jobs, it’s frequently been at a staggering cost: reported that President Obama “toured to much fanfare a Johnson Controls plant in Michigan where $300 million in conservation grants produced 150 jobs -- at a cost of $2 million per position.”

As yr obt svt writes about green issues, that’s obviously a green job. As such, I'm open to accepting one of those $2 million jobs.

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