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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Evergreen's Exodus to China Illustrates how Green Technology Doesn't Create Many American Jobs

An interesting follow-up came from Edward L. Glaeser in the again in the NYT. I certainly agree with some of it, but Glaeser does come clean on the "Green jobs" myth. Read the whole thing at the link above. If he'd had the courage to write about this two years ago, I'd be more impressed. Still...

From Glaeser:

"Evergreen's factory had received more than $40 million in subsidies, which led many to see the plant closing as lesson in the futility of green energy and industrial policy. But what does Evergreen's story really teach us about solar energy, public subsidies and the future of American manufacturing?


"Evergreen Solar's move to China was supported by a $33 million loan from the Chinese government, and it has suggested that the Chinese production was cheaper because 'solar manufacturers in China have received considerable government and financial support.'

"But surely China's skilled, low-wage labor force is a far more important source of its low costs. Japan's success in the 1980s was also attributed to its activist industrial policy, but subsequent research found that government subsidies backed losers more often than winners.

"Joshua Lerner's superb book 'Boulevard of Broken Dreams' (Princeton University Press, 2009) reviews public efforts to support start-ups and entrepreneurship worldwide and reminds us that 'for each effective government intervention, there have been dozens, even hundreds, of failures, where public expenditures bore no fruit.'

"I suspect few readers will really think that Evergreen Solar was shortchanged by American governments. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory contracted with the company in its early days. More recently, Massachusetts agencies gave tens of millions of dollars to the company. Conservative critics, such as Michelle Malkin, argue that the Devens closing provides a warning about green energy: 'the myth that "green jobs" are a boon to the economy keeps getting pierced by failed green jobs boondoggle after failed green jobs boondoggle.' But it was always a mistake to think that clean energy was going to be a jobs bonanza, and we should be investing in green technology whether or not it produces jobs.

"America has had many high-tech breakthroughs over the past half-century, but those innovations have rarely provided abundant employment for the less educated workers who need jobs most. The Devens closing reminds us that even when ideas are 'made in America,' production is almost always cheaper in China.

"Failed public investments, like the money spent in Devens, reflect both the fact that public officials are rarely skilled venture capitalists and that governments pursue many objectives that lead them away from solid investments. It's easy to see why any governor would be excited about a green-energy manufacturing plant in a less prosperous area of his or her state. But the same forces that made Devens political catnip meant that it was unlikely to be a long-term success."

Glaeser illustrates one of the many problems with government subsidies so touted by the Left, and that is that so little of it is invested wisely. Losers, which is wasted money, abounds. Of course, since the return that is realistically expected is political and not monetary, this matters little to the government in the short-term. The frenzied result can be seen throughout Washington and state capitals, and within the lobbying industry. It's a problem that should be limited, not expanded as Obama and the Left preach.

It would be rather revealing if Glaeser were to expound on why we should continue to invest in green technology whether or not it produces jobs. I guess we really need those cheap solar panels so we can make miles and miles of solar farms and divert incredible amounts of water (those solar panels need cooling) into the American Southwest, and we should be prepared to pay, through the nose, to get them. Gotta save the world from global warming... or something.

Thirdly, it would be nice if people went into a little as to why manufacturing costs are so much lower in China. Much of the Chinese labor force comes out of rural China, where young people are housed in government-run hostels in which the living conditions vary from "bad to unspeakable." These should not be confused with the South Korean or Japanese workers' dormitories. The Chinese hostels have much, much worse living conditions.

Oh, those evil capitalists exploiting their workers... oh, wait... I mean those good government people that want what's best for all their charges. Umm... Huh.

It would be nice if Washington would actually come clean over "green jobs" and then see how the public reacts to subsidizing America's "idea people" (is that really all the US has left?) and Chinese workers.

1 comment:

  1. This has always been a global "wealth redistribution" plan. We know this. I really wish that more people would wake up, though.