While campaigning President Obama promised to create 5 million "green" jobs, and shortly into his term he announced a "task force" to do just that. His stimulus package included tax credits for renewable energy companies, allotted funds for weatherization and more. Now with the economy once again on shaky ground the President may pivot back to jobs in September, specifically of the "green" variety.
More than two years later after those initiatives began, the results are dismal. In fact a number of the very companies the Obama administration touted as future job creators have gone bankrupt or had to lay off employees instead. But you won't hear about this from ABC, CBS and NBC very often.
On NBC's "Nightly News" Feb. 9, 2009, chief environmental affairs correspondent Anne Thompson reported from a solar panel plant in Greenville, Mich. She spoke with United Solar Ovonic's CEO Mark Morelli and claimed that jobs were on the way. "Today there are 380 jobs with 500 more coming," Thompson said.
Thompson praised the green jobs efforts underway in Michigan saying, "New industries providing a green road map to give workers and the planet a better, more secure future."
What none of the three networks have reported is that despite the $37 million in tax incentives it received those Uni-Solar plants "are running at a fraction of their full capacity and employment is well below projections," according to The Grand Rapids Press. As of May 2011, the Greenville plants NBC had praised in 2009 were employing only 285 workers and were facing potential layoffs as the parent company struggled.
The Business & Media Institute analyzed the results of a Nexis search for the term "green jobs" and found only 4 stories out of 52 (roughly 8 percent) between Jan. 17, 2009 and Aug. 17, 2011 included any criticism. That means 92 percent had no criticism. An additional 10 stories focused on Obama's former green jobs "czar" Van Jones resignation (because of his 9/11 Truther views) were excluded from the analysis.
Networks Praise 'Green Jobs' Ignore Inefficiency
It came as no surprise that something as feel good as green jobs would earn praise from the networks. "We have gotten the message. Green-collar jobs are the wave of the future," Diane Sawyer declared on April 15, 2009.
Two years later we have seen that future and it is bleak. The national unemployment rate still stands at 9.1 percent. Millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted and jobs have actually been lost. On Aug. 15, 2011, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that their city's green jobs program was a "bust."
Seattle had won a $20 million federal grant in 2010 to weatherize homes. The goals of the program were to create 2,000 jobs and retrofit 2,000 homes, according to the Seattle P-I.
"But more than a year later, Seattle's numbers are lackluster. As of last week, only three homes had been retrofitted and just 14 new jobs have emerged from the program," Seattle P-I wrote. "Many of the jobs are administrative, and not the entry-level pathways once dreamed for low-income workers. Some people wonder if the original goals are now achievable."
Seattle isn't alone. The Heritage Foundation noted in a blog post as Obama toured a battery plant in Holland, Mich. that another Michigan business touted by the administration for its "green jobs" no longer exists.
Fisher Coachworks is out of business "just two years after it drew acclaim for being part of Michigan's green future, despite millions in state taxpayer funding and a contract to sell buses to be purchased with federal taxpayers dollars," Heritage's Mike Brownfield wrote.
An editorial from Investor's Business Daily cited those examples and more:
- Green Vehicles - Salinas, Calif. Went out of business after spending more than $500,000 in city taxpayer dollars.
- Evergreen Solar Inc. Filed for bankruptcy Aug. 15, 2011, although the Obama administration touted it as "hoping to hire 90 to 100 people." They had already shuttered a factory in March and cut 800 jobs. They also plan to shut down a plant in Michigan.
Even the battery plant Obama toured on Aug. 11 should have been reported as an example of the inefficiency of taxpayer-subsidized "green jobs." That Johnson Controls plant produced 150 jobs, with $300 million according to IBD. That breaks down to $2 million per job.
While the networks have essentially ignored the disastrous results of Obama's green jobs policies, print media (local and national) have admitted the failures. Even the Aug. 19, 2011, New York Times published an article by The Bay Citizen (a San Francisco news outlet) that reported: "Federal and state efforts to stimulate creation of green jobs have largely failed, government records show."
That Bay Citizen story cited the flawed weatherization program and pointed out that "Job training programs intended for the clean economy have also failed to generate big numbers." In California, $59 million spent on training "led to only 719 placements - the equivalent of an $82,000 subsidy for each one."
Green Job Subsidies Don't Work, Just Look at Spain
Fundamentally, there were economic problems with Obama's green jobs policies because the government picked winners and losers and tried to artificially create demand. When the subsidies stopped coming (and sometimes earlier) a number of businesses collapsed. Other programs took much longer than expected to implement, and have not come close to meeting their targets.
The Obama administration and the media should have seen this coming. News networks (and all journalists) had a responsibility to investigate the administration's grand green jobs promises, question them and challenge them. But they usually didn't despite evidence that green jobs programs are inefficient and cost jobs.
In March 2009, Bloomberg reported the findings of a Spanish study about green jobs. The King Juan Carlos University study found that the green jobs push in Spain actually resulted in job destruction: costing at least 2.2 jobs per government-supported "green" jobs.
The next month, Reuters.com ran an article about the study asking, "Do green jobs cannibalize other jobs?" Reuters quoted the author of the study, Gabriel Calzada, who wrote: "Spain's experience cited by President Obama as a model reveals with high confidence by two different methods, that the U.S. should expect a loss of at least 2.2 jobs on average, or about 9 jobs lost for every 4 created."