‘Green jobs’ cronyism and cannibalism

Hon. Ernest Istook Former Republican Congressman
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To rephrase President Obama’s State of the Union theme: “This is our generation’s apparatchik moment.”

Yes, he said “Sputnik” instead, but his actual agenda is about the apparatchik — government by party leaders, bureaucrats and the well-connected.

His agenda is symbolized by his push for “green jobs” as the path to a better future.

Simply put, the green jobs agenda spends billions of taxpayer dollars to destroy existing jobs and replace them with jobs in politically favored businesses, raising the costs of energy along the way.

The politically-connected win. Existing job-holders and companies lose. Home electric bills go up. Power also costs more for companies, making it more expensive to go into business or to stay in business.

It’s cronyism that is building a political power structure based on false claims about green jobs.

It’s cannibalism because creating the green jobs requires killing off existing jobs.

As Bloomberg News reported, “Subsidizing renewable energy in the U.S. may destroy two jobs for every one created if Spain’s experience with windmills and solar farms is any guide.”

One Heritage Foundation study showed that proposed mandates for using “renewable energy” to generate electricity would cost 1 million jobs. Had last year’s cap-and-trade bill been passed, we might have lost almost 2 million jobs. That compares to claims by the renewable energy industry that 274,000 jobs would be created by their products. We would lose three to seven jobs or more for every one that we gain.

This is Obamamath. Obama wants us to pay for the privilege of destroying jobs. His State of the Union called for incentives that will make clean energy profitable.

Guess what? If it requires incentives, it isn’t profitable!

“When the President and Congress talk about green jobs, they are talking about ones created via federal tax breaks, subsidies, or outright mandates,” noted The Heritage Foundation’s Ben Liebermann.

The green jobs agenda is all about making a large group dependent on the politicians who provide them with money and who in exchange receive campaign donations and other political support. It is the ultimate in Tammany Hall-style political bossism — the political earmark that dwarfs all others. The green jobs agenda is a political spoils and cronyism system operating in the open, justifying itself through political correctness and overblown claims that it is dictated by global warming.

POLITICO reported that between 1998 and 2009 the amount that the alternative energy sector spent on lobbying grew from $2.4 million a year to $30 million a year. The story noted, “The speed of expansion is eye-popping,” and added, “Wind, solar, ethanol and other alternative energy groups are also stepping up their political contributions to candidates — almost all of them Democrats. Yes, the fossil fuel lobby spends about five times more than the alternative energy lobby, but fossil fuel produces over 20 times as much power — about 70% of our national electricity compared to about 3%.

How about claims that existing federal policies already advantage fossil fuels? A report from the federal Department of Energy shows that each megawatt of power produced by wind or solar power receives subsidies almost 100 times higher than for oil and natural gas, and about 50 times higher than for coal.

Even The New York Times reported that wind-generated power costs 50% more than power generated from fossil fuel, and power from solar energy costs 2-3 times more than wind power.

Perhaps some day those who profit from subsidizing alternative energy will admit what they’ve done, just as Al Gore now admits that his push for billions in ethanol subsidies was a mistake based on political gain — not even counting the financial gains he’s made since leaving office. As The Wall Street Journal notes, “ethanol has become a purely political machine: It serves no purpose other than re-electing incumbents and transferring wealth to farm states and ethanol producers.”

But don’t some business interests support the green agenda? Sadly, yes. They tend to be those who profit from these subsidies. Writing in Forbes, Jerry Bowyer noted, “What is the difference between crony capitalism and socialism? Not much.”

We did not win the space race by putting extra costs and burdens on ourselves to benefit a team of politicians and businesses that scratch each others’ backs. Obama’s call to action isn’t based on Sputnik; it’s based on apparatchik. We don’t need that cronyism. Or to cannibalize existing jobs so that cronies can empower themselves.

Ernest Istook was a U.S. Congressman for 14 years and is now a Distinguished Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.