New Study: Green Jobs Myths

President Obama touts “green jobs” and has hired a “green jobs czar.”

But check out the conclusions from this new study published by the University of Illinois College of Law and Economics about “green jobs”:

A rapidly growing literature promises that a massive program of government mandates, subsidies, and forced technological interventions will reward the nation with an economy brimming with green jobs. Not only will these jobs improve the environment, but they will be high paying, interesting, and provide collective rights. This literature is built on mythologies about economics, forecasting, and technology.

Myth: Everyone understands what a green job is.

Reality: No standard definition of a green job exists.

Myth: Creating green jobs will boost productive employment.

Reality: Green jobs estimates include huge numbers of clerical, bureaucratic, and administrative positions that do not produce goods and services for consumption.

Myth: Green jobs forecasts are reliable.

Reality: The green jobs studies made estimates using poor economic models based on dubious assumptions.

Myth: Green jobs promote employment growth.

Reality: By promoting more jobs instead of more productivity, the green jobs described in the literature encourage low-paying jobs in less desirable conditions. Economic growth cannot be ordered by Congress or by the United Nations. Government interference – such as restricting successful technologies in favor of speculative technologies favored by special interests – will generate stagnation.

Myth: The world economy can be remade by reducing trade and relying on local production and reduced consumption without dramatically decreasing our standard of living.

Reality: History shows that nations cannot produce everything their citizens need or desire. People and firms have talents that allow specialization that make goods and services ever more efficient and lower-cost, thereby enriching society.

Myth: Government mandates are a substitute for free markets.

Reality: Companies react more swiftly and efficiently to the demands of their customers and markets, than to cumbersome government mandates.

Myth: Imposing technological progress by regulation is desirable.

Reality: Some technologies preferred by the green jobs studies are not capable of efficiently reaching the scale necessary to meet today’s demands and could be counterproductive to environmental quality.

In this Article, we survey the green jobs literature, analyze its assumptions, and show how the special interest groups promoting the idea of green jobs have embedded dubious assumptions and techniques within their analyses. Before undertaking efforts to restructure and possibly impoverish our society, careful analysis and informed public debate about these assumptions and prescriptions are necessary.

7 thoughts on “New Study: Green Jobs Myths”

  1. These are interesting points, and as a student of economics I am in agreement with all of them. However, they do not address the core of “green” jobs supporters’ arguments, which are: a) benefits for the environment, and b)national security benefit of relying on local energy sources rather than the regimes in the Middle East. As a conservative, I find (b) to be particularly convincing, do not you?

  2. Congratulations to the University of Illinois and associated scholars for updating us about the cutting edge thinking of greens.
    This “green jobs” campaign could ultimately sour normal folks as regards the greens. Green jobs may come to mean snow jobs. Or no jobs.

  3. We seem to want to have our cake and eat it too. I don’t see how it can happen that way. We depend utterly on oil at the moment, but we have large reserves of it here at home that we’ve become afraid to go after.

    The proposals before us will literally kill millions of people if carried to their logical end. Does this mean nothing to anyone?

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