"Green jobs": PERC punctures politicized projections parroted by progressive policy wonks

PERC (the Property & Environment Research Center) is a Montana-based think-tank specializing in free-market environmentalism. They have a new report, 7 Myths About Green Jobs. It critiques four recent reports put out by (1) the American Solar Energy Society, (2) the Center for American Progress, (3) the US Conference of Mayors, and (4) the UN Environment Program.

There are many convincing arguments in the PERC critique. Here's a memorable one:
No doubt it is true that requiring all public buildings to be retrofitted or offering "strong financial incentives" to private building owners to engage in retrofitting would created jobs (CAP 2008, 6-7). Of course, so would requiring all public buildings to be painted purple or offering tax incentives to private building owners to paint their buildings purple. Painting jobs would increase, paint manufacturers would increase production of purple paint, paint stores may hire additional delivery help, paint brush manufacturers would increase production, and so forth.

The question is: What would have happened to the resources used to meet the purple paint mandate in the absence of the government program? Those resources would have been put to the building owners' highest and best use, and those uses would have also created demand for goods and services, even if not for purple paint. The same is true of [green] retrofitting mandates. The implication of the necessity of a mandate is that profit-seeking building owners are too foolish to make investments in energy saving despite the alleged short-term paybacks.
Here are the seven myths that PERC debunks:
  1. Everyone knows what a "green job" is.
  2. Creating green jobs will boost productive employment.
  3. Green jobs forecasts are reliable.
  4. Green jobs promote employment growth.
  5. The world economy can be remade by reducing trade, relying on local production, and lowering consumption without decreasing our standard of living.
  6. Government mandates can substitue for free markets.
  7. Wishing for technologicial progress is sufficient.
There's also a long version of the PERC report.

I have nothing against green jobs per se (I've held a few myself) but it seems to me that most of the people hyping the concept are either (1) political types whose technical knowledge and economic reasoning are shallow or just plain wrong, or (2) opportunistic government contractors maneuvering for a place at the subsidized feeding trough.

UPDATE: For some "green jobs" excitement, watch this YouTube exchange between Harry Alford and Barbara Boxer.

1 comment:

  1. This report about environmentalism is very important because people need to know how much are the pollution levels affecting us.