Job Lies: When Will ‘Green’ = ‘Dishonest’?

MARCH 26, 2012


Just as red and blue have become associated with Republicans and Democrats, respectively, because of Election Night maps, will green someday become a synonym for fraud and dishonesty? After listening to Gov. Jerry Brown’s two years of lies, prevarications and fantasies about “green jobs,” I hope so. It would be semantic justice.

What brings this to mind is the latest fusillade of flapdoodle from Gov. Brown and his aides. On Friday, speaking in Goleta at The Wall Street Journal’s annual ECO:nomics conference, Brown offered warm words for himself. The governor praised the governor for the governor’s determination to revive California’s rotten economy by creating vast numbers of green jobs.

It was all a recycling of the rhetoric Brown has offered since securing the Democratic nomination for governor in early 2010: A commitment to renewable energy will create more than 500,000 jobs and get Californians working again! Message: Jerry cares! But in an environmentally responsible way!

But two years later, there is simply no evidence of a green economic revolution in the Golden State. Unemployment remains among the worst in the nation. Meanwhile, a new U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report waterboards the assumption that California is a green jobs powerhouse, saying the state is about average in green employment.

‘Clean Tech’

Yes, “clean tech,” as it’s known in San Diego, has proven to be a modest economic engine, and in fact it’s quite plausible that revolutionary energy technologies could emerge from a lab somewhere in California. But serious economists and business analysts, as opposed to Brown, predecessor Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, acknowledge that green energy will never be a mass employer akin to the auto, steel or aviation industries.

A 2010 study by the respected McKinsey consulting group warned governments not to assume “green” jobs would ever be more than a niche in the economy akin to semiconductor manufacturing. Even the leftist Brookings Institution, in a 2011 study, warned of unrealistic expectations and said “green” jobs grew more slowly than general employment from 2003 to 2010.

These studies and basic data on jobs and growth prompted a remarkable news analysis last summer in The New York Times that said Brown’s green jobs forecast and President Barack Obama’s promise of 5 million new green jobs nationally appeared to be a “pipe dream.”

Alas, the cuts in the newsroom budgets of the Sacramento Bee and Los Angeles Times appear to have included their subscriptions to The New York Times. Even as reporters for both of the state’s most powerful newspapers finally have figured out that another putatively green initiative — the bullet train — is a fiasco, they continue to enthusiastically print the governor’s green balderdash.

You’d think coverage of an “ECO:nomics” conference that featured a governor congratulating himself on green job creation might bother to include some relevant facts, such as the Brookings Institution’s discovery that there were actually fewer green jobs in Silicon Valley in 2010 than 2003. But no. L.A. Times reporter Ricardo Garcia didn’t think it was relevant in his Friday account.

The Real World

Meanwhile, the Sacramento Bee’s David Siders did manage to allow some real-world events to flavor his Saturday story about Brown’s grand plans for solar power, noting the vast problems facing a proposed solar plant in Blythe that the governor just last year predicted would be a “really big” boost to jobs and growth.

But Siders — a naif who wrote a puff piece about the bullet train CEO just two weeks before the incompetent rail official was forced to resign — also included in his March 24 article a paragraph of spin from a Brown official that had me roaring with laughter.

“In theory, the fact that we’re having failures is actually a sign that the market’s working — that we have some comfort because there’s a lot of people out there, and out of this the best projects will probably emerge,” said Michael Picker, a senior adviser to Brown on renewable energy.

The bad news? Hey, it’s actually good news.

What the market is saying, of course, is that it’s still got profound doubts about the practicality and cost of renewable energy — even with the billions of dollars thrown at it by the Obama administration, even with promises of future subsidies, even with regulatory relief not granted to less sainted industries.

Did Siders bother to cite the McKinsey or Brookings reports? Did he look at all the various factors The New York Times cited in pronouncing green jobs a “pipe dream”? Did he note that there is in fact an energy jobs boom going on right now — but, as The New York Times reports, it’s in fossil fuels?

Nope. He let Brown’s aide depict green failure as green success.

Only in California, global headquarters for the cult that is environmentalism, could coverage of green energy be so half-assed that I would yearn for it to be outsourced to The New York Times.

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