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Are 'green' jobs the great American con job? [Most commented]

August 23, 2011 | 12:09 pm

Solar Panel

"Is the green energy revolution about energy independence? Or is it about fighting global warming? Or is it about jobs?" asks Jonah Goldberg in his Tuesday column about what he calls the war to green America.

For most of the last few years the White House and its supporters have been saying it's about all three. But that's never been true. If we want energy independence (and I'm not sure why we would) or if we want to reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil (a marginally better proposition, given that Canada and often Mexico supply the U.S. with more oil than Saudi Arabia), we would massively expand our domestic drilling for oil and gas and our use of coal or carbon-free nuclear. That would also create lots of jobs that can't be exported (you can't drill for American oil in China, but we can, and do, buy lots of Chinese-made solar panels).

As for the windfall in green jobs, that has always been a con job.

That can't possibly be true. Or can it? Here's what readers are saying on our discussion board.

The government shouldn't be in the business of "green" energy

Green energy has been a considerable drag on our economy for years.  If a rich Hollywood film producer wants to reach into his deep pockets and festoon $100,000 worth of solar cells to his mansion, that is certainly his prerogative, and he should be allowed to do so.

The government, however, should not be in the business of giving away hard-earned tax dollars to artificially deflate the real cost of things like wind turbines or electric cars like the Chevy Volt.  Let the real cost of green energy (and the attending sticker shock) really sink in to the public's conscience.  When the average American begins to realize how much these inefficient methods are costing him, personally, he might think twice about voting for the next candidate who decides to run on a platform of emission caps and carbon credits and taxes.

Obama is, sadly, little more than an orthodox liberal who speaks the anti-oil, anti-coal dialect fluently as a means of genuflecting at the Green Altar of the Democratic party.  Let's hope voters see this vaudeville routine for what it is and send green politicians a clear message in 2012.  This country can ill-afford a second Obama term.

-- GregMaragos

Supporting "green" energy is the government’s job, in response to GregMaragos

You're kidding, right? The real cost of green energy?  How about letting the real cost of traditional energy sink into your conscience.  Don't you know that the government is currently artificially deflating the cost of oil and traditional energy, by financing wars to keep oil cheap, by building highways with public money so you don't have to pay a toll every time you drive, and by shifting the cost of pollution away from those who cause it and onto those who suffer the effects? 

-- mjohnd1

The difficulty with creating "green" jobs

The problem with this article's logic is that the difficulty in creating green jobs during the last decade is no more unique than the difficulty in creating non-green jobs. Has the rest of the job sector been booming while green jobs struggled? No, so the general problem is really the weak demand levels within the economy, not that green jobs have some sort of fatal flaw vs. non-green. 

-- facingreality

Creating "green" jobs is about politics, not science or economics

What concerns me about "green jobs" is that I do not believe anyone has done any sort of rigorous analysis to show that these will do more than simply provide make-work jobs?

The key benchmark is this:  To what extent do these new renewable sources REPLACE fossil fuel sources.  My understanding is that the answer is "very little".  A lot of it has to do with the fact that you still need the old base-load plants to generate power when the renewables are shut down (when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining).

You can do a combination of wind and natural gas power to meet the actual demand.  Get wind power when the wind is blowing and natural gas fills in when the wind is not blowing.  However, the only carbon emissions you avoid are the natural gas you don't need to use when the wind is blowing.  On the other hand, you emit a lot of carbon in the production of the wind farm.  In particular, you need a lot of concrete and steel and these emit a lot of carbon.

Overall, does this really accomplish anything?

Most likely, the wind farms being built today can largely be integrated into the power grid over time.  When the grid starts choking on too much unpredictable wind power, the wind power boom will be over, the subsidies will stop, and these "green jobs" will vanish.

The bottom line is that this whole thing is based on politics rather than science and economics.

-- LanceS

This is no time to experiment with "green" jobs

A bloody recession is a terrible time to play around with complicated healthcare changes, and hugely expensive "renewable" energy schemes.

What is wrong with these people?

We need to rebuild our wealth first - for 10 to 20 years.  Then, if it appears that catastrophic Global Warming isn't the hoax which most of us believe it to be, we will have the money - and much better technology to deal with it.

I mean really.  A Chevy Volt that will go 40 miles and then must be parked and plugged in?

And what if you are a desert area and need air-conditioning to survive?

-- parker1227

*Spelling errors in the above comments have been corrected.

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Photo: James Cahill of SolarCity, which installs thin film technology solar panels. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

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