It’s jobless being Green

Posted: November 21, 2008, 8:04 PM by NP Editor

Global cap and trade and forced technology schemes are a lousy way to spend taxpayers’ dollars. They are also wildly impractical

By Peter Foster

Global cap and trade and forced technology schemes are a lousy way to spend taxpayers’ dollars. They are also wildly impractical

Nothing more clearly indicates the supremacy of charisma over ideas than attitudes towards the green schemes of Stéphane Dion and Barack Obama. Mr. Dion’s “Green Shift” was a lead balloon, carried by a man whose earnest personality was already a millstone. And yet U.S. president-elect Obama’s far more potentially-disastrous plans to create “green jobs” is being portrayed as inspirational leadership.

This week, both the leading candidates for Mr. Dion’s Liberal leadership job — Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae — sought to put as much distance as possible between themselves and Mr. Dion’s vote-loser (which even he was trying to shove down the memory hole by the end of the recent federal campaign). Although Mr. Dion’s plan was claimed to be too complex, perhaps his main mistake was to be too honest. Instead of concentrating on that bright shining new high-tech Emerald City on a hill, Mr. Dion started with the painful bit: the cost, specifically a carbon tax. Mr. Obama by contrast promises to create 5 million “green” jobs by spending $15-billion a year for 10 years. These jobs will not only help save the world from climate change, but also increase energy security. Where will the money come from? Where’s your vision? Are you racist?

President-elect Obama’s plans represent an enormous threat both to the U.S. and world economies. Far from creating new jobs, any “green” jobs arising from draconian legislation and/or subsidies will be bought at the cost of more jobs lost in restricted/disfavoured sectors. Green jobs carry a reverse multiplier.

As for the benefits of green government guidance, just look at how much Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards have done to help guide U.S. auto makers towards viability. Nevertheless, the conventional wisdom is that any bailouts for the Big Three must be accompanied by commitments on their part to create “more fuel efficient” cars rather than simply cars that people want to buy. Government bureaucrats may even be put on their boards to lend their expertise to the process. Having poured good money after bad, the government will add to the investment’s guaranteed failure by further muddling corporate direction with political input.

Similarly, the $700-billion bank bailout, whose nature is as vague as the sum is arbitrary, might be linked to financial institutions directing loans towards chosen instruments or technologies. A number of features might be noted about the ongoing “green shove.” It is based on what may be the biggest political and scientific scam in world history: the alleged need for grand, coordinated schemes to combat anthropogenic climate change. Government-favoured “technologies of the future” are in most cases technologies of the past.

This suicidal policy thrust is being promoted by a growing army of policy entrepreneurs, corporate rent-seekers, freelance consultants, carbon traders, hot air market builders, and the compliance industry of lawyers and accountants. Even if the worst-case scenario about climate change is true, global schemes based on cap and trade and forced technology are, as Bjorn Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus has indicated, a lousy way to spend taxpayers’ dollars. They are also wildly impractical. If, that is, your real concern is human welfare rather than hatred of development, empire building, or a desire to line your own pockets at the public expense.

When it comes to chosen technologies, as this column has pointed out many times, governments invariably pursue the drunk under the lamppost approach of supporting what is available: the same old greasy deck of solar, wind, fuel cell, and “bio” sources that have been around for anything from decades to millennia.

The only reason that these technologies have enjoyed a boom in recent years (which is now collapsing) is that they have been subsidized by governments, and stoutly supported by the chattering classes in the media. One recent example of this latter trend was a programme last week by the CBC’s Fifth Estate titled, appropriately, “The Gospel of Green,” which lauded the German approach to subsidies, and pointed to a Canadian company, Arise Technologies, which had allegedly benefitted from hefty German subsidies. Unfortunately, the programme aired just as Arise’s main German customer was floundering and its own share price was sinking.

There is nothing more ephemeral than government-supported jobs. As for supporters of junk science and economics, the Financial Post this week carried a positively depressing special section which paraded an army of lawyers twittering about all the great business there was to be done on the back of climate change policy; from quantifying, verifying and aggregating “pollution” for trading purposes, to hunting down and prosecuting carbon criminals. One lawyer even waxed about the growth of carbon derivatives. Mmm. Collateralized carbon obligations? It’s got bubble written all over it!

Then there’s the lucrative prospect of helping companies negotiate any new U.S. regime to combat “unfair’ trade from countries that refuse to sign on to industrial self-mutilation in the name of saving the planet. Like the dead hand of government investment guidance, such a regime would prove fatal for global development, even if it does mean boffo business for trade lawyers. The only hope is that ordinary people will spot this destructive lunacy and stop it. We might take some hope that the Green Shift was rejected. Meanwhile, although it did not get a great deal of coverage, two recent green initiatives in California — Proposition 7, to force the use of renewable power, and Proposition 10, to subsidize alternative vehicles — were soundly defeated. Like that joke about the lawyers at the bottom of lake Ontario, it’s a start.

Financial Post


One response to “It’s jobless being Green

  1. Finally someone willing to forget the politically correct and inform the public of the real issues.

    My major concern is the fact that governments will continue to subsidize the wind industry in the hopes of creating jobs. In other words create a false economy dependent on huge gov’t subsidies all for the sake of appearing green as well as give us the illusion that our politicians are doing something towards the market down turn. It’s just too simplistic of an argument. Germany’s increase in jobs in the green sector came at a cost of 4x the rates for electricity.

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