The myth of a green economy is hurting the U.S.

NEW ORLEANS, La. – In past articles we have discussed the “green” economy and the influence that government funding has played in the renewable energy market.  Conclusive evidence continues to suggest that renewable energy projects and so-called “green” jobs have not lived up to the economic potential that politicians have promised.

At a time when our leaders in Washington are searching for ways to cut and balance our nation’s out-of-control budget, they may find some relief for the U.S. taxpayer by making cuts where government investments have not come to fruition.  Those who advocate propping up industries on the backs of taxpayers should come to the realization that the green economy has been a significant contributor to job loss and economic stagnation in the U.S. and abroad.

The pursuit of the green economy has led to economic disaster in Spain.  A study produced by the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos claimed that for every green job created in Spain, nearly 2.2 jobs were destroyed and each job cost taxpayers nearly $774,000.  Lagging a few years behind, the U.S. is now getting a taste of what government funded job creation really means for the economy.

In Massachusetts, Evergreen Solar Inc. recently filed for bankruptcy, listing a debt of over $485 million. Although it received over $58 million in state and federal subsidies, the clean-energy company is now closing its doors.  Over 800 jobs have been lost and taxpayers are left to foot the bill.

In 2010, the city of Seattle received a $20 million federal grant to invest in weatherization projects.  The goal was to create 2,000 jobs and retrofit 2,000 homes in low-income neighborhoods.  Fast forward to today, just three homes have been weatherized and only 14 new jobs have emerged from the program.  Fourteen jobs created with $20 million?  Seems like a pretty rotten deal.

A study released by the Brookings Institution found clean-technology jobs accounted for just 2 percent of employment nationwide.  In California, the study found that rather than adding jobs, the sector actually lost 492 positions from 2003 to 2010.

As predicted, similar examples of failed green energy projects are popping up across the country.  The only problem is, no one is talking about it.

In a report released by the U.S. Department of Energy, the federal government awarded approximately $37.2 billion in direct energy subsidies in 2010, an increase of more than $19 billion over four years.  That’s a 50% increase in government spending.  Direct subsidies for renewable projects skyrocketed over 180 percent, totaling $14.7 billion.  The biggest recipient was wind power with almost $5 billion in taxpayer subsidies.

In recent weeks, the New York Times has produced some ill-researched articles that suggest the development of U.S. oil and gas shale plays will  result in a dotcom-like economic bubble.  The paper’s accusations may have held more water if they concentrated on the green economy and it’s potential to bust.

Unlike green projects, U.S. oil and gas companies generate substantial economic growth and create jobs without taking advantage of the people’s hard-earned tax dollars.  The fact is that even with billions of dollars in taxpayer assistance, green projects will create a real economic bubble because they can’t compete in the market and offer limited job sustainability.

Don Briggs is president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association.