On its surface, a seemingly strong argument for adopting a national policy of increasing reliance on renewable energy is all the jobs and economic growth that will result. It’s claimed by some that the switch to so-called “green” sources of energy will pay for itself this way.
But there are many doubters. Here, the Property and Environment Research Center — “the nation’s oldest and largest institute dedicated to improving environmental quality through markets and property rights” — publishes a report titled 7 myths about green jobs.
Here are some excerpts:
The costs of the green jobs programs proposed by various interest groups are staggering. For example, the UNEP (2008, 306) report concludes that “No one knows how much a full-fledged green transition will cost, but needed investment will likely be in the hundreds of billions, and possibly trillions, of dollars.”
The scale of social change that would be imposed is also immense. Green jobs advocates propose dramatic shifts in energy production technologies, building practices, food production, and nearly every other aspect of life. These calls for radical economic changes are wrapped in green packaging. The promise is not only a revolution in our relationship with the environment, but the employment of millions in high paying, satisfying jobs. Unfortunately, the analysis provided in the green jobs literature is deeply flawed, resting on a series of myths about the economy, the environment, and technology.
To attempt to transform modern society on the scale proposed by the green jobs literature is an effort of staggering complexity and scale. To do so based on the wishful thinking and bad economics embodied in the green jobs literature would be the height of irresponsibility. There is no doubt that significant opportunities abound to develop new energy sources, new industries, and new jobs. A market-based discovery process will do a far better job of developing those energy sources, industries, and jobs than can a series of mandates based on flawed data. The policy debate should be open so we can dispel the myths and focus on facts and analysis.
Like they say, economics is the “dismal science.” There really is no such thing as a free lunch. Wishing otherwise can’t make it so.