U.S. Vice President Joe Biden dropped into Ottawa this week to break bread with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the country’s Premiers.
It was a quick meeting and to judge by the news reports of the meeting, Biden was here to show support for the Trudeau government’s globalist policies and fight against so-called climate change.
The VP said during the meeting that the incoming administration of President-Elect Donald Trump is not likely to change much when it comes to battling climate change, citing the fact that the battle has created so many jobs.
Two things struck me about that statement. First, the climate change policies of the West have not really been about reducing CO2 emissions, but rather in creating jobs through subsidization of renewable energy. Secondly, that Biden and others play fast and loose with what constitutes a “green” job.
Is the fight against climate change really a fight to reduce CO2 emissions or a way to create jobs and look good in the process?
If the goal is to reduce CO2 emissions, there are certainly far more effective ways of accomplishing that than building wind turbines and solar arrays.
Most of America’s and the West’s CO2 emissions are the result using fossil fuels in the generation of electricity. Coal, natural gas and to a lesser extent oil are all being burned to generate electricity.
Let’s assume that rising CO2 emissions are indeed the existential threat to the planet as the alarmists claim. If that is the case, then moving away from fossil fuel generated electricity must proceed as quickly as possible. But wind and solar are proving to be costly (subsidies) and unreliable (the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine). So what’s left?
Hydro, of course, is always a good choice. But not every country, state or province has hydro resources that can be tapped.
That leaves nuclear.
Nuclear plants can provide abundant, reliable electricity and have been doing so for many decades in many countries.
In fact, the climate scientist turned activist Dr. James Hansen wrote in the Guardian:
“Nuclear power, particularly next-generation nuclear power with a closed fuel cycle (where spent fuel is reprocessed), is uniquely scalable, and environmentally advantageous. Over the past 50 years, nuclear power stations – by offsetting fossil fuel combustion – have avoided the emission of an estimated 60bn tonnes of carbon dioxide. Nuclear energy can power whole civilisations, and produce waste streams that are trivial compared to the waste produced by fossil fuel combustion. There are technical means to dispose of this small amount of waste safely. However, nuclear does pose unique safety and proliferation concerns that must be addressed with strong and binding international standards and safeguards. Most importantly for climate, nuclear produces no CO2 during power generation.”
That is a perfectly logical position if one believes CO2 is a threat and wishes to maintain the current level of civilization.
The trouble is, of course, is that the nuclear option doesn’t create all those “green” jobs politicians seeking to curry favor within the green movement.
All of which brings us back to Biden’s claim that there are two million green jobs that have been created south of the border.
It’s an unsubstantiated claim and the vice president can get away with it because the US Bureau of Labor Statistics stopped tracking so-called green jobs in 2013. Convenient, no?
When the BLS was tracking green jobs it used a definition that was quite broad:
“Green jobs are either:
Jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources.
Jobs in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.”
The full definition can be found here: BLS guidelines.
So bus drivers are in clean, green jobs, likewise people who make buses. If you are involved in biofuels, you’re in a green sector. If you install insulation, you’re green. If you write energy efficiency regulations, yup, you’re green.
With that kind of inclusion, it’s not that hard to claim the battle against climate change has been a great boon to jobs. But it also becomes a meaningless claim.
After all, mass transit exists regardless of whatever we do about cutting CO2 emissions and since most buses are diesel powered, it truly is duplicitous to claim it is pure green – more green with a lot of brown in it.
The same thing applies to environmental regulations. Those were created long before climate change became a scare.
When most people think of green jobs, they think of work in building, erecting, maintaining wind turbines and solar arrays.
In which case, the number of U.S. workers in those industries is lesss than one million, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IREA).
It’s a fair number of jobs, to be sure, but they’re coming at an enormous cost. A study presented to the U.S. Senate shows the cost in the hundreds of billions of dollars per year and concluded:
“There is the further matter that an expansion of the renewable electricity sector must mean a decline in some other sector(s), with an attendant reduction in resource use there; after all resources in the aggregate are finite. If there exists substantial unemployment, and if labor demand in renewables is not highly specialized, a short-run increase in total employment might result. But in the long run—not necessarily a long period of time—such industrial policies cannot “create” employment; they can only shift it among economic sectors. In short, an expanding renewables sector must be accompanied by a decline in other sectors, whether relative or absolute, and creation of “green jobs” must be accompanied by a destruction of jobs elsewhere. Even if an expanding renewables sector is more labor-intensive (per unit of output) than the sectors that would decline as a result, it remains the case that the employment expansion would be a cost for the economy as a whole, and the aggregate result would be an economy smaller than otherwise would be the case. There is no particular reason to believe that the employment gained as a result of the (hypothetically) greater labor intensiveness of renewables systematically would be greater than the employment lost because of the decline of other sectors combined with the adverse employment effect of the smaller economy in the aggregate. There is in addition the adverse employment effect of the explicit or implicit taxes that must be imposed to finance the expansion of renewable power.”
That is why cost/benefit analyses are of the utmost importance. If the “green” jobs are being created artificially and at a great cost to the taxpayer there is no net gain and, in fact, they become a net loss to the economy, without securing the very thing we seek to achieve – a reduction in CO2 emissions.
Of course, if the battle against climate change is not really about reducing CO2 at all, but about a transfer of money from developed to undeveloped countries and the creation of jobs to make it appealing then I guess cost/benefit analysis is not important.