REPORT: The Dirty Secret Behind Clean Jobs

DirtySecretCleanJobsWith unemployment on the rise, new jobs are scarce. Creating jobs has become a top priority for politicians. One can hardly watch the news without hearing catch phrases like the “renewable energy economy,” “green jobs” and “leading the world in clean energy technologies.” In short, environmental policies have been rebranded as job creators.

Cascade Policy Institute’s new report, The Dirty Secret Behind Clean Jobs, reveals numerous flaws with this approach. The authors address the misconceptions behind creating “green jobs.” The definition of “green jobs” is vague, green job subsidies are based on flawed economic principles and, lastly, assumptions for job growth are inaccurate or downright false.

The report’s co-author, Nick Sibilla, states, “Our report focuses on Oregon, national and international attempts to create green jobs. Overwhelmingly, we found that green jobs are based on faulty economics and wishful thinking.”

The Dirty Secret Behind Clean Jobs reveals:

  • Numerous definitions of the term “green jobs” exist. In fact, most government agencies interchange the terms “clean” and “green,” adding to the confusion of what really constitutes an environmentally friendly job.
  • Proclamations about green jobs fixing the economy are exaggerated and misleading. Oregon employers predicted the number of green jobs would grow 14 percent between 2008 and 2010, which would have equated to 7,400 new jobs in the state. Meanwhile, statewide employment levels have dropped by 140,000 jobs over the same two-year period.
  • “Clean jobs” turns out to be just another term for big government. According to The Brookings Institution, the industry of “regulation and compliance” (i.e., government employees) was the fourth largest source of clean jobs in the United States. Meanwhile, in Oregon, three of the larger green jobs employers are the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. All of those salaries are ultimately paid by taxpayers.
  • One clear example of green job pork barrel spending is the Shepherds Flat wind farm under construction in Gilliam and Morrow Counties. The project has obtained $1.2 billion in federal, state and local subsidies but will create only 35 permanent jobs. Each job will cost over $34 million to American taxpayers.
  • Green job estimates do not account for job losses in other sectors. Spain, a pioneer in renewable energy before the recession, is a sobering example. A recent Spanish economic analysis revealed that for every green job created, more than two jobs were lost.
  • Many green job advocates claim that green industries are more labor intensive and thus create more jobs than other sectors of the economy. Although inefficiency is not something to be praised, the claims are still downright false. A recent Italian study suggests the green industry is a capital-intensive, not a labor-intensive, industry and that the data show that green investments generate fewer jobs than investments in other sectors of the economy.

Cascade’s vice president and co-author of the report, Todd Wynn, stated, “Despite the continued rhetoric from politicians, our report shows the utter failure of the green job movement. It turns out to be more about corporate welfare and government handouts than actual job creation.”


Todd Wynn
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F: 503.242.3822

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