College graduates, disappointed to find that they are working in minimum-wage positions rather than the “green jobs” their university promised them, might be startled to learn that they got their wish. “Employees at bicycle shops have green jobs,” economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth points out in a Capital Research Center study. “So do workers at antique dealers, at the Salvation Army used clothing recycling centers, and at used record stores, because used items count as recycled goods.”
Furchtgott-Roth testified at a congressional hearing in June that examined the definition of “green jobs.” “As a witness at the hearing, I explained that, because the white paper cup placed before me on the table had a ‘Power to Save Energy’ logo, employees who produced it had green jobs,” she recalls. “The product met the BLS definition of ‘environmental compliance, education, training and public awareness.’”
“If the paper cup had been pure white, without the logo, its producers would not have had green jobs.” Could it be that the government is creating such an elastic definition of green jobs because environmental businesses have been such a monumental failure? “The Solyndra debacle wasn’t unusual; some 79% of the companies receiving Energy Department loan guarantees have gone bankrupt or missed production goals,” Furchtgott-Roth notes. She is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
Ironically, since those who push for environmental mandates tend to be the same thinkers and activists who claim to help the poor, the very regulations they crave hurt the indigent most of all. “High energy costs from green energy mandates hurt poor and working-class people most of all,” Furchtgott-Roth argues. “According to the Department of Labor, spending on electricity, natural gas, and gasoline and motor oil consumed 4% of household income for the top one-fifth of income earners in 2011.”
“But the figure was 24% for those in the bottom one-fifth—and that was up from 22% in 2010.” Furchtgott-Roth was, at one time, the chief economist for the Department of Labor.
Although “green jobs” have become a rallying cry for the Obama Administration, Furchtgott-Roth, who worked in the administration of George W. Bush, lays out the bipartisan origins of this policy failure. “In 2007, President Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act, which included as Title X the Green Jobs Act, sponsored by then-Representative Hilda Solis, a California Democrat,” Furchtgott-Roth points out. “(Solis became Secretary of Labor in 2009 and took charge of implementing her own legislation.)”
“The Green Jobs Act authorized funding for green collar job training in the areas of retrofitting buildings, installing solar panels, setting up wind farms, and building energy efficient buildings, among others.”
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.