Thursday, December 9, 2010

Green jobs training: The road to unemployment

Green jobs are political marketing, not reality. Workers who believed the hype and retrained for these largely non-existent jobs are finding themselves unemployable:
After losing his way in the old economy, Laurance Anton tried to assure his place in the new one by signing up for green jobs training earlier this year at his local community college.

Anton has been out of work since 2008, when his job as a surveyor vanished with Florida's once-sizzling housing market. After a futile search, at age 56 he reluctantly returned to school to learn the kind of job skills the Obama administration is wagering will soon fuel an employment boom: solar installation, sustainable landscape design, recycling and green demolition.

Anton said the classes, funded with a $2.9 million federal grant to Ocala's workforce development organization, have taught him a lot. He's learned how to apply Ohm's law, how to solder tiny components on circuit boards and how to disassemble rather than demolish a building.

The only problem is that his new skills have not resulted in a single job offer. Officials who run Ocala's green jobs training program say the same is true for three-quarters of their first 100 graduates.

"I think I have put in 200 applications," said Anton, who exhausted his unemployment benefits months ago and now relies on food stamps and his dwindling savings to survive. "I'm long past the point where I need some regular income." ...

The industry's growth has been undercut by the simple economic fact that fossil fuels remain cheaper than renewables.
If you don't substantially raise the price of carbon, people will continue to get the vast majority of their energy from fossil fuels. Even if you do substantially raise the cost of fossil fuels, the "green jobs" created will likely be less than the "black jobs" lost.* That's because energy conservation—using less energy—is an essential part of reducing carbon emissions. Using less energy means that the energy industry must shrink as a percentage of GDP, while other industries grow as a percentage of GDP. The "black jobs" lost would be completely offset by more jobs elsewhere in the economy, but it is a mistake to assume that they would all be in green jobs. Many of them will be in other industries entirely.

The Obama administration has completely missed its opportunity to raise the price of carbon. If it didn't happen when Democrats controlled the House of Representatives, it won't happen with Republicans in control. Democrats seem to think that reducing carbon emissions, fighting global warming, creating "green jobs," and promoting "energy independence" can occur completely through wishful thinking. It cannot. The price of carbon must go up.

Hat tip: Jeffrey Miron

* Since oil, coal, and soot are black, I figure "black jobs" is the best complementary term to "green jobs."

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