Green-job future a fraud


JUNE 1, 2010


California’s unemployment rate remains stubbornly high, at 12.6 percent. That’s 2.7 percentage points above the national average. The persistence of unemployment also is something Californians haven’t seen since the Great Depression. The May 30 Sacramento Bee reported:

To a degree not seen in recent recessions, unemployment has become a drawn-out affair.

About 6.7 million Americans have been unemployed for at least 27 weeks, including nearly 880,000 Californians. The ranks of the state’s long-term unemployed more than doubled in the past year and now account for about 40 percent of all those out of work, according to the Employment Development Department.

Are “green jobs” the answer?

“Green jobs” are those associated with producing a cleaner environment, such as manufacturing solar panels, which reduce dependence on electricity produced by coal and fossil-fuel generation plants; or high-mileage hybrid cars depending partly on battery power, such as Toyota’s popular Prius.

One of the major arguments for passing AB32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, was that it would create California jobs in new industries in which the Golden State then would take a global lead, much as our companies led in computers and medical devices. AB32 mandates cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the state by 25 percent by 2020.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made such arguments when he signed AB32 in 2006:

Some have challenged whether AB32 is good for businesses. I say unquestionably it is good for businesses. Not only large, well-established businesses, but small businesses that will harness their entrepreneurial spirit to help us achieve our climate goals.

He said something similar recently at a May 12 meeting on green jobs at the University of California, Davis. The symposium’s title itself speaks of green jobs creation: “E3: Economic Prosperity, Energy and the Environment — A Roundtable to Set the Agenda on Clean and Sustainable Paths to Economic Prosperity.”

Opposing the November 2010 initiative to effectively repeal AB32, which is called the California Jobs Initiative, the governor insisted:

Our policies that have been put in place have created jobs, it has increased the productivity in the green sector. We have seen it, if it is solar, if it is building solar panels, installing solar panels, if it is building solar plants, if it is the technology in battery development, if it is electric cars. We’re the only state that really is producing now electric cars. You have the only state right now, we have hydrogen cars here. And there is a tremendous amount of job growth because of all that.


What’s green?

A major problem in discussing green jobs is defining exactly what they are, David Zetland told me; he’s Wantrup Fellow in Natural Resource Economics and Political Economy at the University of California, Berkeley, and editor of the Web site on water policy.

“The government doesn’t know what is a green activity,” he said. “Even if they did know, they can’t say that one solution is preferable to another because it’s hard to know the real impact of each green activity. Finally, politicians and bureaucrats are often persuaded – bribed – to favor one solution over another.”

He said that, when green jobs are subsidized, “then everybody will want to be classified green. The unions will want a law requiring solar panels to be installed by union workers, who will be paid $35 an hour, instead of $18 an hour for non-union labor. This will stimulate demand for union labor. But you will get fewer put in at a much higher price, which also lengthens the payback period for recovering installation costs through lower monthly bills.”

Another problem with solar panels is that many are manufactured in China, which has less stringent environmental controls on its factories. So all that’s happening, Zetland said, is that subsidized solar panels made in high-pollution Chinese plants will replace electricity being generated in America or Canada by relatively clean natural gas, nuclear and hydro power plants.

It is true that solar companies are growing in America. But for now, notes CalFinder, a site for Nationwide Home Solar Power Contractors and Information:

There are a slew of notable solar manufacturers around the world including BP Solar, Shell Solar, Kyocera Solar, Mitsubishi Solar, and GE Solar, which are offshoots of larger corporations. There is a noticeable lack of US companies among the list of top solar manufacturers, although several companies have divisions based in the United States. This is not to say that the US is a slouch in the solar industry. The main reason the US is behind in manufacturing is that other countries like Germany and China were faster and more aggressive in subsidizing the solar industry. Nonetheless, the US market is growing as fast as anywhere and is a leader in the thin film, building integrated PV [photovoltaic] sector.


In general, Zetland said, “Subsidies can be manipulated; the vast majority of them are.”

He said that one example could be a gardener who cuts lawns, spewing pollution into the air from his lawnmower for $30,000 a year in pay. He then is turned into a Landscape Architect “xeriscaper,” who replaces a lawn with rocks, gets his pay subsidized up to $50,000 a year, and gets counted in the “green job” category.

“So someone doing a green job may be getting paid to do a job that he would do anyway,” Zetland said. “That subsidy is wasted because it didn’t change anyone’s behavior.”

A big problem with subsidies is that there’s an added cost: that of the government bureaucracy that distributes the tax money. “The government doesn’t operate at zero cost,” Zetland said. “They need people to collect and distribute money. And the more complicated the distribution, the more discretion required, and the more employees needed to do the job. More employees means that the cost of subsides is higher.”

The Prius example

About five years ago when I was on the editorial board of the Orange County Register, we met with then-Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, since lieutenant governor and now a U.S. representative. He was so proud to boast that he was driving a Prius, then as now a status symbol among the green set.

But Zetland said, “Look at the life cycle of the Prius. It’s an environmental disaster. Unless you drive 100,000 miles a year, the batteries” create more pollution than the car saves in reduced energy use. “It’s better to drive an old car that gets 20 mpg than scrap it for a new Prius.”

Impact Lab notes:

Building a Toyota Prius causes more environmental damage than a Hummer that is on the road for three times longer than a Prius. As already noted, the Prius is partly driven by a battery which contains nickel. The nickel is mined and smelted at a plant in Sudbury, Ontario. This plant has caused so much environmental damage to the surrounding environment that NASA has used the ‘dead zone’ around the plant to test moon rovers. The area around the plant is devoid of any life for miles.

When you pool together all the combined energy it takes to drive and build a Toyota Prius, the flagship car of energy fanatics, it takes almost 50 percent more energy than a Hummer – the Prius’s arch nemesis.

Through a study by CNW Marketing called “Dust to Dust,” the total combined energy is taken from all the electrical, fuel, transportation, materials (metal, plastic, etc) and hundreds of other factors over the expected lifetime of a vehicle. The Prius costs an average of $3.25 per mile driven over a lifetime of 100,000 miles – the expected lifespan of the Hybrid.

The Hummer, on the other hand, costs a more fiscal $1.95 per mile to put on the road over an expected lifetime of 300,000 miles. That means the Hummer will last three times longer than a Prius and use less combined energy doing it.


Zetland brought up an economic precept: “If you want to do two things, don’t use one tool.” In this case the two things are: 1) create jobs and 2) improve the environment. If you want to create jobs, he said, government should “make it cheaper to hire people,” such as by reducing taxes and regulatory burdens.

But if it wants to improve the environment, then it should “subsidize green or penalize brown,” for example, by the emissions standards on cars that have been implemented since the early 1970s across America, and since the 1960s in California, helping clean our air.

John Seiler, an editorial writer with The Orange County Register for 19 years, is a reporter and analyst for His email: [email protected].

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  1. EastBayLarry
    EastBayLarry 1 June, 2010, 04:24

    Of course even doing two different things to achieve two goals, those things may conflict and cancel each others effectiveness.

    Reply this comment
  2. TheTruthSquad
    TheTruthSquad 2 June, 2010, 12:46

    I’ll tell you what John. Take 10 percent of the government subsidies that the nuclear and oil/gas industries have received and put them into renewables and we’ll be off oil in no time. In the meantime, spend some time volunteering cleaning up the mess in the Gulf of Mexico or putting yourself on the front lines of the oil war in the Middle East before you think that reducing our dependence on fossil fuels isn’t a good idea. These jobs are real. The $3 billion in venture capital invested in California clean tech is real. The toxic pollutants from the oil companies Valero and Tesoro are real. And the 1,200 construction jobs in the Inland Empire on ONE solar facility are real. At least to the people who are working on the site instead of those sitting behind keyboards ridiculing their hard work.

    Reply this comment
  3. John Seiler
    John Seiler 2 June, 2010, 15:15

    TheTruthSquad: 1) I oppose all subsidies of the nuclear and oil/gas industries, and of any industries.

    2: I have opposed all the wars in the Middle East, and favor bringing American troops home.

    3. Fossil fuels are going to be around a long time because they are plentiful and cheap. The price of oil has remained constant since World War II at 15 barrels per ounce of gold. But there is a shift going on from oil to natural gas, which is a very plentiful resource.

    4. I’m all for venture capital being invested in California clean tech — provided it really is venture capital, and not my tax money, or forced expenditures from AB 32 or other coercive schemes that, as my article showed, really kill jobs.

    5. As to volunteering to clean up the mess in the Gulf of Mexico, I volunteered for four years in the U.S. Army. I put in my time.

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  4. Ron Kilmartin
    Ron Kilmartin 2 June, 2010, 21:34

    Green jobs that hang on the man-made CO2 global warming theory are suspended in mid air on a thin membrane bubble, with the only support being this now collapsed and defunct theory.

    This bubble will bust sooner or later, when the public absorb the full extent to which they are being fleeced by AB 32 and similar laws.

    The only ones who do not admit (or understand) that Climategate torpedoed this theory and the ship is sinking, are politicians with a finger in the cap and trade hypocrisy, the ever comatose media, and snake oil salesmen for objects like electric cars windmills and curly-q florescent light bulbs.

    If you have a “green job”, be sure that it is not dependent on the CO2 hoax for justification. If it is, your job will not be there after the bubble breaks. The subsidies will dry up as taxpayers demand that AB 32 and similar legislation be repealed.

    If you are an investor, try and bring up a chart of the defunct firm Kennetech, which folded a few years after the subsidy was stopped (1996). That is what will happen to such ventures as the Toyota-Tesla electric car, windmill turbines, solar panels, and other items dependent on the CO2 hoax and requiring a taxpayer subsidy

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  5. EastBayLarry
    EastBayLarry 3 June, 2010, 07:13

    Let’s not forget that the ‘real world’ experience with green jobs in Europe has been that each ‘green job’ costs about 2.2 ‘regular’ jobs.

    Reply this comment
  6. Tom Tanton
    Tom Tanton 3 June, 2010, 08:10

    Truthsquad (or is it really Maviglio in disguise?)–please note that renewables receive >14 times the subsidy of nuclear or oil/gas receive (on a useful output basis.) Don’t cry “infant industry” either as wind and solar have been getting favored technology status for the almost-40 years I’ve been in this energy business. I try to avoid monochromism, and believe any color job is good. The paltry 125,000 green jobs (even putting aside the re-definition) pales in comparison to the 2.26 million California’s out of work, and as EastBayLarry points out heavily subsidized “green jobs (not all green are necessarily heavily subsidized) cost more jobs than created–see Spain, Germany, Italy, and Denmark for real world data–don’t believe “models.” The key is in improving productivity–not make work. Would you have farms all go back to hand trowels insteqad of tractors?

    By the way, please also understand that the MAJORITY of our imported petroleum comes from Canada and Mexico.

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  7. TheTruthSquad
    TheTruthSquad 3 June, 2010, 17:01

    Well, Mr. Taunton, you sure know about fossil fuels since you have been on Big Oil’s payroll for decades. It’s a shame, however, that the dirty energy propaganda has clouded your thought process. Maybe you should take a job for Phillip Morris and tell us about the virtues of smoking tobacco too (the lobbyist for this initiative is the same one that worked for Phillip Morris; maybe he can help you out.

    “On a useful output basis”? Seriously? Is that a definition Enron came up with? Talk about comparing apples with watermelons. Straight out fact: the fossil fuel industry has, and continues to receive, BILLIONS in federal subsidies and FAR MORE than the renewable industry.

    Actually the first commercialization of renewables begin in the early 1980s with the Solar Energy Research Institute and regional solar commercialization centers that linked the public and private sector together. Let’s compare that to 100 years of oil and gas subsidies, federal limits on liability, and billions upon billions of subsidies for drilling on public lands and in public waters. Not even close.

    And enough with the Spanish comparison, because you know it’s a a fraud (just ask the Spanish Secretary of Energy or read this article: Spanish Energy Official Debunks Anti-Solar Study. Again).

    It’s actually 500,000 green jobs. And according to one of the best economists in the state, Stephen Levy, the recipients of these jobs are the very same unemployed you seem so concerned about. He’s not being bankrolled by Big Oil like you are either.

    The “majority” of our imported petroleum comes from Canada and Mexico? So does that mean you are happy that we send billions of California dollars to those countries every day instead of keeping them in the local economy that California renewable facilities would allow? And does that mean we should write off the billions we’re sending to the Middle East — even though it’s not the “majority” of the oil we import?

    Call me crazy, but I think the oil companies would be better off fixing the mess they have created in the Gulf of Mexico than buying their way onto our ballot.

    Reply this comment
    ONTIME 4 June, 2010, 10:29

    The hoax of manufacuring goes on and the green words used are those intended to scam as much money to increase the ever burgeoning waistline of the government. Kaaaleephornyaaa is nearing the breaking point, OPM is becoming a scarcity, we are entertaining the poor and unproductive with money we can no longer produce, Green Jobs are a bad sell, the technology is iffy in a lot of cases, the jobs are being sponsored not by the private sector but by the PC government and again because of this we are in the hole.

    This constant going to the public trough has got to end, the private sector is shrinking at a alarming rate, the tax burden put upon by the fat butt government cannot stand, the two ways government jobs or entitlments exist is by more taxes on the shrinking private sector or borrowing and the lenders are going to demand much more than a pound of flesh.

    We could put a demand on all our public, elected and appointed officials by instituting a yearly public audit on their earnings and holdings in order to assure their commitment to public service, we could make our legislature conform to being a part time entity, we could use a moritorium on those whose public service is nothing more than changing jobs and appointments, we can use public intiative to control the cost and size of government. Being a public servant would be just that your service would be that of honor and pride not just looking for ways to pad your already comfy future and voting your own perks.

    Kaaaleephornyaa had better regain it sense of balance or become a third world state of squalor and petty bureaucrats.

    Reply this comment
  9. Tyler
    Tyler 7 June, 2010, 14:51

    HAHAHA Wow, Somebody got Steve “Truthsqat” Maviglio really pissed. I guess he doesnt like when someone with direct knowledge of the energy industry points out that he is full of crap. I love the fact that fraudsquad tries to bring Enron into the conversation when in reality, it was the Executives from Enron who came up with the whole Cap & Tax/ Carbon Trading scam and pushed it on Gore when he was still VP.

    Snake Oil Steve must really be getting desperate now. He has stooped to releasing BS press releases that try to make a big deal about an Air Quality Management Board not supporting the California Jobs Initiative, and he had to resort to quoting himself in the “press release” because nobody else even cared. You are really grasping for straws buddy. Whats next? Are you going to make up a press release about Tobacco Companies who are opposed to Cigarrette Taxes?

    And stop it with the alarmist tactics. The Gulf Spill has nothing to do with California’s oil drilling, we are not drilling 1 mile below the water here. If anything, California is going to end up getting more tourists and sell more goods to make up for the damage in the gulf, which should make all the professional liars happy because that means more tax money to be wasted on the Maviglios of the world.

    And besides, I’m sure Mary Nichols is already drooling and seeing dollar signs when she watches the news. Her husband is probably already meeting with the BP Executives and figuring out how much he is going to rake in from this disaster, just like he did when he defended Exxon after the Exxon-Valdeze spill.

    Reply this comment
  10. Tyler
    Tyler 7 June, 2010, 15:11

    Oh, and by the way, way to tell a Veteran to go serve on the front lines!!! You have to be kidding me! Some political hack that collects a check, comprised of our tax dollars, has the NERVE to call out a veteran!?

    Truthsquad, You really need to apologize to John and thank him, and others like him, for fighting for your right to make a living browsing the internet in your basement, making fake press releases, and lying for politicians. Although, I guess you could just as easily get a job in a communist country, they need people in their Propoganda Departments to lie to the public as well. I guess you can just adapt, but the rest of us appreciate what our veterans do for this country, eventhough it gives scumbag media relations people the chance to lie to the public while collecting tax dollars. We are willing to take the bad with the good.

    Thank you John, Both for exposing the fraud that Maviglio is spewing, and for serving our Country.

    Reply this comment
  11. Kal
    Kal 8 June, 2010, 10:38

    Either one is for energy subsidies or against them. If you’re for energy subsidies – which includes tax breaks – then you necessarily have to pick favorites out of a field of competitors. If you’re against subsidies, then subsidies must be stopped in most every instance, especially to well established industries that have already gained their proprietary and economic advantage.

    One cannot decry renewable energy subsidies and support fossil fuel industry, or vice versa, without being hypocritical or declaring that they have a favorite, in other words, a “horse in the race.” If you have a horse in the race, you’d better ask yourself why you support sometime inefficiencies and all-time distortions in the energy industry, because that’s what subsidies amount to.

    The reality is that, due to fossil fuel subsidies, the U.S. pays a fraction of the true cost of energy, as evidenced by everything from the artificially low cost at the pump and on energy (utility) bills to low vehicle fleet fuel efficiency to taxpayer clean-up of privately originated pollution to litigation/defense after environmental disasters (of course these are just part of energy production, right?). For those deniers out there, the list just mentioned doesn’t even count GHG trading or tax regimes.

    In the end, have the American society pay the true cost of energy generation then we can really begin to talk about efficiency and productivity.

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