Saturday, June 27, 2009
Tilting at Green Windmills
The Spanish professor is puzzled. Why, Gabriel Calzada wonders, is the U.S. president recommending that America emulate the Spanish model for creating "green jobs" in "alternative energy" even though Spain's unemployment rate is 18.1 percent -- more than double the European Union average -- partly because of spending on such jobs?
Calzada, 36, an economics professor at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, has produced a report that, if true, is inconvenient for the Obama administration's green agenda, and for some budget assumptions that are dependent upon it.
Calzada says Spain's torrential spending -- no other nation has so aggressively supported production of electricity from renewable sources -- on wind farms and other forms of alternative energy has indeed created jobs. But Calzada's report concludes that they often are temporary and have received $752,000 to $800,000 each in subsidies -- wind industry jobs cost even more, $1.4 million each. And each new job entails the loss of 2.2 other jobs that are either lost or not created in other industries because of the political allocation -- sub-optimum in terms of economic efficiency -- of capital....
...The president's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, was asked about the report's contention that the political diversion of capital into green jobs has cost Spain jobs. The White House transcript contained this exchange:
Gibbs: "It seems weird that we're importing wind turbine parts from Spain in order to build -- to meet renewable energy demand here if that were even remotely the case."
Questioner: "Is that a suggestion that his study is simply flat wrong?"
Gibbs: "I haven't read the study, but I think, yes."
Questioner: "Well, then. [Laughter.]" ...
...Still, one can be agnostic about both reports while being dismayed by the frequency with which such findings are ignored simply because they question policies that are so invested with righteousness that methodical economic reasoning about their costs and benefits seems unimportant. When the president speaks of "new green energy economies" creating "countless well-paying jobs," perhaps they really are countless, meaning incapable of being counted.
For fervent believers in governments' abilities to control the climate and in the urgent need for them to do so, believing is seeing: They see, through their ideological lenses, governments' green spending as always paying for itself. ..