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August 19th, 2011 1:30 pm
Dismal Reality of Green Jobs: There Aren’t Any
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Earlier this week, I shared the story of a $20 million, federally-funded “green jobs” initiative in Seattle. Initially projected to create 2,000 jobs, the plan has instead created about 14. And if you take a look at today’s New York Times, you’ll see that this isn’t an isolated development:

A study released in July by the non-partisan Brookings Institution found clean-technology jobs accounted for just 2 percent of employment nationwide and only slightly more — 2.2 percent — in Silicon Valley. Rather than adding jobs, the study found, the sector actually lost 492 positions from 2003 to 2010 in the South Bay, where the unemployment rate in June was 10.5 percent.

Let’s clarify the point of objection here. I (and, I suspect, most conservatives) have nothing against “clean technology” (though the sanctimoniousness of its most fervent supporters is a lot to stomach). The real problem comes from government support for these initiatives.

The reason that green tech hasn’t birthed a fecund job market is because the economics are still not there: no one has figured out how to make these technologies viable at a price point lower than conventional fuel sources. When the government subsidizes that failure, it only delays the arrival of that economic breakthrough.

For that reason, the clean tech crowd should ask the government to get out of the way. As long as driving hybrid vehicles or putting solar panels on your roof is purely a statement of environmental consciousness, green products will remain niche tokens of consumer activism. Once they’re actually good investments, the green jobs boom will create itself.

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