The “Green Jobs” Paradox

October 6, 2011

In a post that is primarily concerned with a debate (or, more accurately, a pissing match) on the Solyndra scandal, Mickey Kaus identifies the basic fallacy of the “green jobs” concept – it can be green, or it can produce jobs, but it is unlikely to be both at the same time:

One way to look at it is to note that there’s an obvious tension between the “green” part of a “green jobs” agenda and the “jobs” part. If all you care about is 1) promoting solar power, then solar cells manufactured in China are as good as cells manufactured here–even better, if they’re cheaper and therefore more likely to be installed. But if that’s the case then Nocera hasn’t shown that you need government financing to achieve your goals because private financing is unavailable. Grove doesn’t speak to this problem.

But if 2) what you care about is promoting jobs, then it will take a whole lot more than government loans and loan guarantees to keep green manufacturing and engineering jobs in the U.S.

However, citing Walter Russell Mead, Kaus discerns a way to square the circle and make both the “green” and the “jobs” parts of the equation cohere:

I’d always figured “green jobs” backers were focused on goal (1) and resigned to creating lots of Chinese manufacturing jobs. After all, there’d still be jobs that could only be performed here in the U.S., like installing the damn things. Nocera seems to suggest that’s not enough–or that when the time comes to try to rationalize a disastrous Obama boondoggle, it’s OK to quietly switch to goal (2).

P.S.: The alternative long-run strategy for goal (2), giving the market play while keeping the manufacturing jobs here, was I believe suggested by Walter Russell Mead: make it as easy as possible to start manufacturing enterprises in the United States, using our own recently acquired supply of productive workers willing to work cheap–for $10-$14 an hour, say. That means protecting firms from Davis-Bacon-style high-wage mandates and Wagner Act unionism, and from new “protected classes” of potential plaintiffs–a conservative goal.  It may also mean relieving them of health care and pension costs by having government shoulder that entire burden–a liberal goal. Plus, of course, lower taxes (achieved in part by cutting government to the essentials) and simple, predictable regulations.

This is, of course, the key to a successful politics – recognizing that both sides have important goals and giving something to each in order to accomplish a larger goal.  Unfortunately, both primary ideological camps in the US today are convinced that they must try to steamroll the opposition and forgo all such compromise.



  1. […] The “Green Jobs” Paradox « Category: Green News, Uncategorized | Tags: china, chinese, economy, energy, european, […]

  2. […] “Green Jobs” Paradox « Posted on October 6, 2011 by jwalker From "green Jobs" – Google Blog Search: I'd always figured “ green jobs ” backers were focused on goal (1) and resigned to […]

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