Just as the discussion in Washington turns inescapably to reckless spending of the sort that earned Spain the title ‘The Next Greece‘, President Obama goes to Pennsylvania today for an ‘energy town hall’ to promote policies he used to regularly admit he borrowed from Spain’s socialists. Yet these are policies Spain, Germany and the rest of his models are actually sprinting away from.
Specifically, the president will strike the ‘green jobs’ pose again at a plant owned by Spanish windmill producer Gamesa, rather incredibly reprising his cheerleading for this subsidy-dependent industry – all of whose manufacturing jobs will flee when the subsidies run out. That is, they are not – wait for it – ‘sustainable’.
So let’s review the unhappy history of the agenda and its talking points.
First, a sordid walk-through of the economic recklessness of this persistent, key component of ‘fundamentally transforming America’ is in my February testimony placed into the record by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which makes for some timely and fun reading.
Next, recall how deeply troubling this persistence is: the damage these policies wreak has been specifically, thoroughly and professionally exposed as regards the very countries Obama used to tell us to look because they were his models (Spain, Denmark, Germany; the sole exception not receiving the full review is Japan). He no longer cites them, obviously due to said exposés, but he still pushes the costly schemes. He knows, and cares not. That is disturbing.
Prepare again for the spin of “green jobs that can’t be shipped overseas” (what about down to Mexico?). Assuming this does not mean the president will start a trade war to keep other countries’ windmills out of America, he must be referring to installation and maintenance jobs – which, as my testimony notes, even the rent-seeking lobby admits is what the jobs will be. That is, temporary and/or hardly high-paying.
But they also threaten a reckless new economic ‘bubble’.
Consider Spain, whose renewabubble collapsed. Within 24 hours last Spring the very same Gamesa announced the closure of one plant in Navarra (Spain) plus a reduction of 10% of its Spanish labor force, and the opening of a plant in China. As with, e.g., the UK’s largest steel plant, the Redcar works, closing because of cap-and-trade and various other ‘green jobs’ schemes only to simultaneously open another in India, the principal denies the inescapable: they closed a facility as a result of these policies and moved the capacity to countries who didn’t adopt such laws which create these industries in the first place. They merely take advantage of other countries doing so.
The ultimate irony is that any manufacturing jobs we see will be exported once the schemes mandating their product cause the bite they are intended to. This is true even when industry’s power bill is subsidized so as to try and keep the jobs from fleeing, as in Denmark.
The routine here is that the green job traveling circus puts its stakes down, taking advantage of stimulus programs and promises of more such programs to come. But then they can easily split town, and they generally do.
A November 5, 2009 Boston Globe story captured the situation well: “Little more than a year after cutting the ribbon at a new factory in Devens built with more than $58 million in state aid, Evergreen Solar said yesterday that it will shift its assembly of solar panels from there to China.” Ouch. It seems that “In exchange for receiving $58.6 million in grants, loans, land, tax incentives, and other aid to build in Massachusetts, Evergreen pledged that it would add 350 new jobs,” which it did. Briefly, only to then decide to “write off $40 million worth of equipment at Devens because of the production shift to China.” Oddly, the company cited the cost of production not borne by overseas producers.
No one told them it wasn’t polite to prove the president wrong, and send green jobs overseas, to make things for use back home in response to mandates making it more expensive to produce here, prompting others to move overseas. Boy, Obamanomics can be exhausting.
And of course there was a different Gamesa plant in Pennsylvania, one the president is not drawing attention to which, amid the massive disgorging of taxpayer “stimulus” money for these schemes in late 2009, announced it was laying off nearly half its 280 workers. Around the same time General Electric said it would close a solar panel factory in Delaware, and we learned that the largest solar plant in the United States, the DeSoto Solar Center in Arcadia, Florida which once employed 400 workers (and received an Obama visit!), soon enough boasted two full time “green jobs.” The company’s parts were almost exclusively manufactured abroad – including the critical solar panels (Philippines) because, let’s face it, our anti-energy policies often make it uneconomic to make things here. Even the agenda’s required trinkets.
We know that inherently, when it comes to windmills and solar panels, the domestic jobs will be overwhelmingly short-term installation contracts. Those are not worth sacrificing future, let alone killing permanent, manufacturing jobs.
Yet that is the necessary trade-off, if only because to maintain even those installation jobs requires a “bubble” of constant taxpayer infusion which ultimately must burst. Adding one more boom-bust scheme to the state-managed economy is not in our interest.