More Stimulus Money Blowing in the Wind

More Stimulus Money Blowing in the Wind

Then-candidate Barack Obama made many promises while on the campaign trail for the presidency in 2008; however, few remain as dubious as his declaration that an America under his leadership would see the creation of a robust “green” economy, ready to power America into the twenty-first century.

Promising to create millions of “green” jobs, Obama stated during his campaign that, “We’ll invest $15 billion a year over the next decade in renewable energy, creating five million new green jobs that pay well, can’t be outsourced and help end our dependence on foreign oil.”

So where exactly are all those “green” jobs?

Wall Street Journal investigation into the relationship between job-creation claims by the Obama administration and stimulus money targeted toward the development and expansion of our nation’s “green” energy sector has revealed an apparent disconnect between rhetoric and reality.

Specifically, the Journal report focused on funds apportioned to companies developing renewable energy from with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). According to Section 1603 of ARRA, allocated resources should be dispensed to create jobs and renewable energy such as wind, geothermal, and solar, exclusive of oil and fossil fuel sources.

Since the passage of ARRA, over $10 billion in stimulus funds have been distributed through the 1603 program, which expired in December 2011. According to the Obama administration, this has been a boon to America’s renewable energy sector.

Money allocated through the 1603 program “has played a central role in the dramatic expansion of renewable energy generation in the United States, with energy generated from wind and solar set to double in the president’s first term,” a White House spokesman said to the Wall Street Journal.

But where, again, are all those “green” jobs?

Although recipients of 1603 funds claimed to have created over 100,000 jobs as a direct result of the stimulus money, little evidence exists to back those claims.

In one example cited by the WSJ, Raser Technologies received a $33 million grant to develop a geothermal plant in Beaver County, Utah. In the year following receipt of the grant, Raser’s workforce dropped from 42 employees to 27.

Raser subsequently filed for bankruptcy protection and now employs less than 10 individuals.

Perhaps the example of Raser Technologies is an anomaly in an otherwise successful program? Perhaps not.

Again, the WSJ found discrepancies in the stated amount of jobs “created” among 1603 recipients focusing on wind power development and actual employees still working in the field.

Although nearly $5 billion was allocated to wind farm development, of the 7,200 workers employed at the height of construction only 300 remain employed today. It appears that whatever employment may have been generated through the 1603 program was often temporary at best.

In fact, many of the jobs purported to have been created through 1603 funding were actually ancillary to the energy programs themselves. Many companies cited work in the fields of hospitality management and retail as jobs “created” through 1603 funding because the presence of renewable energy construction projects helped to sustain these industries within the local economy.

This type of data manipulation undermines any attempt to accurately quantify the extent to which 1603 funding “created” jobs.

As our nation’s unemployment rate continues to hover around 9 percent, with a more expansive underemployment rate of over 15 percent, common sense suggests that, insofar as job creation is concerned, the 1603 program has been yet another stimulus failure on the part of the Obama administration.

Undeterred, however, President Obama has requested that Congress reinstall the 1603 program into the 2013 budget.