Monday, March 10, 2014

The Cost of Going Green

Let’s ignore the heated debate over settled science. Let’s not debate whether  the planet has gotten warmer, is getting warmer, will get a lot warmer in the future. Let’s stop trying to figure out whether the presumed warming, or cooling or whatever is being caused by human beings or the sun.

And let’s put aside our suspicion that global warming advocates believe that theirs is a more virtuous, cleaner way to produce energy… especially when compared with the more vicious, dirtier ways of producing it.

Sun power, wind power, biomass, cellulosic ethanol… clean.

Oil, gas, coal… dirty.

Which would you choose?

It sounds like we’re in the world of moral absolutes, good and evil.

Putting all that aside, Joel Kotkin examines a more salient, and perhaps more telling point. What happens when empowered environmentalists get their way? What happens when they transform their beliefs into policy?

Admittedly, global warmists believe that they are preparing us for the next century, when none of us will be around to judge whether or not they were right.

So, we will ask what effects their policies have on life today?

Kotkin takes California as a test case. He sees environmentally friendly policies producing income inequality, and damaging the lives of middle and working class populations.

Hopefully, they will console themselves with the thought that they are sacrificing themselves for a cause greater than themselves.

Kotkin observes:

By embracing solar and wind as preferred sources of generating power, the state promotes an ever-widening gap between its declining middle- and working-class populations and a smaller, self-satisfied group of environmental campaigners and their corporate backers. 

In California, the oil industry is being systematically demonized, so its executives are choosing to pick up and leave.  For the record, there is nothing scientific about demonizing people who disagree with you.

This should surprise no one:

What matters here is not the hurt feelings of energy executives, but a massive lost opportunity to create loads of desperately needed jobs, particularly for blue-collar workers. The nation may be undergoing a massive “energy revolution,” based largely on new supplies of oil and, particularly, cleaner natural gas, but California so far has decided not to play. 

Kotkin continues:

Not long ago, California was home to a host of top 10 energy firms – ARCO, Getty Oil, Union Oil, Oxy and Chevron; in 1970, oil firms constituted the five largest industrial companies in the state. Now, only Chevron, which has been reducing its headcount in Northern California and is clearly shifting its emphasis to Texas, will remain. 

These are losses that California can not easily absorb. Despite all the hype about the ill-defined “green jobs” sector, the real growth engine remains fossil fuels, which have added a half-million jobs in the past five years. If you don't believe it, just take a trip to Houston, where Occidental is moving

Houston now has more new office construction, some 9 million square feet, than any region in the country outside New York; Los Angeles barely has 1 million. 

What about the jobs? Kotkin reports:

California clearly is squandering an opportunity to restart a large part of its economy. Texas energy has created some 200,000 new jobs over the past decade, while California has barely mustered 20,000. These energy jobs pay well, roughly $20,000 a year more than those in the information sector, according to EMSI. In 2011, this sector accounted for nearly 10 percent of all new jobs created in the nation. This has transformed much of the vast energy zone, from the Gulf to North Dakota. Houston, despite strong in-migration, now boasts an unemployment rate of 5.5 percent, almost four points below the jobless rate in Los Angeles. 

Oh yes, he continues, we have been promised a boon of green jobs. How’s that working out:

What about “green jobs”? Overall, California leads in green jobs, simply by dint of size; but on a per-capita basis, notes a recent Brookings study, California is about average. In wind energy, in fact, California is not even in first place; that honor goes to, of all places, Texas, which boasts twice California's level of production

Ironically, one reason for this mediocre performance lies in environmental regulations that make California a tough place even for renewables. Even the New York Times has described Gov. Jerry Brown's promise about creating a half-million new jobs as something of a “pipe dream.” Even though surviving solar firms are busy, in part to meet the state's strict renewable mandates, solar firms acknowledge that they won't be doing much of the manufacturing here, anyway. 

The would-be visionaries who manage the state are selling Californians a lot of pixie dust. Barely 700,000 Americans work in green energy, including building retrofits, compared with 9 million in fossil fuels. Nationwide employment in solar and wind, meanwhile, is well under 200,000. Overall, officials with fossil-fuel-related companies predict 1.4 million jobs in the sector by 2030. 

How do these conditions affect the state economy:

Ordinary Californians bear the brunt of these policies, paying almost 40 percent above the national average for electricity. Rather than produce energy here, we appear set to import much of the oil and gas that, according to the state, still feeds well over 90 percent of California's energy consumption

Particularly hard-hit has been California's once-vibrant manufacturing sector, which has not mounted anything like the recovery being experienced in other parts of the country. From 2010-13, the country added 510,000 jobs, while California produced fewer than 8,000. Electricity prices are particularly uncompetitive, roughly twice as high in California, as those in prime competitors such Texas, Nevada, Arizona – as well as the hydro-powered Pacific Northwest. 

Individuals are known by the company they keep. Governments are known by the results of the policies they implement.


Anonymous said...

But Stuart, you don't want to miss out on all those "green jobs," do you??? President Obama still says they're coming as part of the economy of the future. They're shovel-ready.


Dennis said...

Anyone want to make a bet that the future's energy, whatever that might be, will be created, developed and paid for with the money, manpower and skills in the states like Texas, et al?
Killing a large number of birds is not "green." Using food for fuel is really not being green. Being green at the expense of human beings is not being green. Creating a NIMBY environment is not very green which seemingly is the position of most of those who push green energy reliance.
Suffice it to say that the energy of the future is NOT going to come from what is now considered "green." I suspect that it will come from a far different area just barely being considered now.

Dennis said...

"A document released by the NGIC shows there is ongoing worldwide research into zero-point energy, particular in China, Germany, Russia and Brazil. An analyst of the DIA has indicated that research into successfully harnessing zero-point energy for energy generation purposes is a serious concern inside the intelligence community."

Sadly this does not appear to be on our list of ideas.

Manoj Kusshwaha said...

nice article great points raised by you

Sam L. said...

" Hopefully, they will console themselves with the thought that they are sacrificing themselves for a cause greater than themselves."

No, they will realize they are being sacrificed on the Altar Of The Greens.
Then, will they move? Or will they decide to take...revenge?

Anonymous said...

Sam L:

Sacrifice? Revenge? Those things don't sound sufficiently vegan and pacifist. We are talking about conscientious objectors to the real word, those who "question authority," are free thinkers... Those who "Think Different." No, they will console themselves with the nobility of their intentions -- the failure of which only serves as further proof of the cruelty of the world. And then, after much gnashing of teeth -- which they will lugubriously self-flagellate themselves for having gnashed -- they will move onto the next "nice" cause no one can disagree with... until there are facts showing it to be a farcical ruse. Repeat.


bidetsprayerman said...

One thing that cannot be debated is pollution; keeps getting worse and worse especially in the oceans. One way to go green that helps with everything = pollution, money, health, hygiene = the Hand Bidet Sprayer. With these you don't really need toilet paper anymore = less waste in the sewers, saves trees, your money and it's healthier. See

James Misner said...

There must be a happy medium. Certainly pollution, contaminated groundwater and inefficient use of our natural resources are major problems. Cleaning up and creating better and more efficient ways to use energy should create jobs. It also seems unrealistic to consider eliminating fossil fuels. Balance needs to be achieved and then perhaps good jobs will come.