Thomas Pyle is the president of the Institute for Energy Research
There is a saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. Thursday, President Obama will unveil a new jobs plan that, according to news reports, will rely heavily on new federal spending on "clean energy" along with preferential tax treatment for some businesses. In other words, it's a repackaging of the president's discredited green jobs agenda. As we have noted before when this sort of thing has been trotted out, it is unfortunate for the economy and the millions of people out of work that the president insists on beating this dead horse.
The president's green jobs agenda has not lived up to his promises. According to Politico, "Nearly three years into Obama's presidency, the White House can't point to much solid evidence that significant numbers of Americans are scoring the green jobs the president has been touting." The president's own Council of Economic Advisors admitted recently that only 225,000 clean energy jobs were either created or saved and cost the tax payer $355,000 per job (assuming a low-ball estimate that $80 billion in economic stimulus went towards green jobs). [See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]
Even the staunchly reliable New York Times noted this week that government "investment" in renewable energy technologies would not provide a "short term jobs machine" in part because of experiences like those at Johnson Controls, who converted "$300 million in taxpayer money into 150 jobs—roughly $2 million per job." This approach by the Obama administration towards the economy and our energy future is obviously unsustainable. But don't take my word for it. The Brookings Institution found that than the number of green jobs grew at a slower pace than the overall economy between 2003 and 2010.
The latest example of the failure of the green jobs agenda is the bankruptcy of the federally-subsidized Solyndra and the continuing anemic sales of the Chevy Volt. Solyndra went bankrupt, despite receiving a $535 million federal loan (announced by Vice President Biden) and a personal visit from President Obama (who used the visit to illustrate the benefits of the Recovery Act).
General Motors continues to sell very few Chevy Volts, despite massive subsidies and special treatment from the federal government. GM has received tens of billions from the federal government (which still owns 61 percent of the company), $240 million from the Department of Energy in grants, $14 billion for retooling, $150 million for GM's Korean battery partner, and Volt purchasers themselves receive $7,500 credit for the purchase of a plug-in hybrid. Despite all this largess (and high oil prices), in August, GM sold only 302 Volts, but to be fair that is an improvement from the 125 Volts GM sold in July. [See an opinion slide show of 10 wasteful stimulus projects.]
According to the president, cars like the Volt are the future because automakers "can't just make money on SUVs and trucks." The president continued, "There is a place for SUVs and trucks, but as gas prices keep on going up, you have got to understand the market. People are going to try to save money."
This politically candid moment demonstrates how little he understands about the vastness of our domestic natural resource base and his outright hostility towards its production. Quite simply, we have the largest reserves of energy on the planet (at least the Congressional Research Services says so). Energy production here at home means jobs today and secure, affordable, and reliable energy tomorrow. Government-induced green jobs, on the other hand, mean fewer jobs, more economic stagnation, and higher priced and less affordable energy.