Obama officials play defense during ‘green jobs’ hearing

Matthew Boyle | Investigative Reporter

U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis admitted Thursday morning during a congressional hearing that she and the Obama administration believe driving a bus that happens to run on “clean energy” should count as a “green job.”

Florida Republican Rep. Connie Mack, questioning Solis during a House oversight committee hearing about why she and the Obama administration consider a man driving a “clean energy” bus to have a “green job,” pushed her on the absurdity of her argument. “Driving a bus is driving a bus, right?” Mack asked her. “I mean, you turn the wheel, you push the gas, you use the brake?”

Because the vehicles run on “clean energy,” Solis and the Obama administration classify the jobs of their drivers as “green jobs.”

“If you go back to the argument that’s being made about how you substantiate the green industry, the vehicles that were built there are hybrid vehicles, they’re fuel efficient,” Solis responded.

“If I’m sitting in a chair made out of ‘green’ material, does that make my job ‘green’?” Mack shot back. “I mean, he is driving a bus, and to count it as a ‘green job’…”

Mack said both Republicans and Democrats want to be able to ensure programs move forward effectively, but that committee members and the American people need accurate information.

Reflecting on whether information Solis provided the committee was accurate, Mack said, “I don’t think it is. Driving a bus just because it’s hybrid doesn’t make it a ‘green job.’”

Solis argued back with Mack. “Mr. Congressman, would you rather have that person unemployed,” she said, raising her voice and talking over Mack. “And the taxpayers would have to pay for that person who’s now paying taxes?”

Mack replied that he’s happy the bus driver in question is employed, but that he’d “rather you not try to smooth this thing over and make it a ‘green job.’”

House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican, called the Thursday morning hearing to examine the specifics of Obama administration claims that they “created” so-called “green jobs.” Committee members pushed Solis, Bureau of Labor Statistics commissioner Keith Hall and deputy Energy secretary Daniel Poneman on what they consider to be a “green job.”

“We’re looking at the accuracy of your numbers here today,” Issa said. “We already have the proof that it cost a fortune to get very few jobs. Now, we look at those jobs and we find out that those jobs are so broadly defined so that you’ve got a lot less real jobs created than even the pitiful numbers that it’s showing.”

The Obama administration splits its “green job” definition into two parts. Any employment “in business establishments that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources,” counts as a “green goods or services” job. And jobs “in which the work performed makes the production processes of business establishments more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources” are considered “green technologies and practices jobs.”

The Labor Department has received $500 million for its “green jobs” training program, and claims that approximately 52,000 Americans have participated in that training. About 26,000 have actually finished the training, according to Solis, and only about 8,000 now have “green jobs.”

Several of the Obama administration’s 52,000 “green jobs” trainees already had jobs before Solis’s Labor Department spent taxpayer money on them.

Solis testified that the administration has plans to increase the number of people participating in “green jobs training” soon, up to about 100,000.

Issa and other Republicans on the committee castigated Solis, Hall and Poneman for spinning statistics and numbers to make it look like they’re creating more “green jobs” than they really are.

“It is ‘only’ $500 million, which in Washington is small dollars,” Issa said to Solis. “You spent $500 million, you spent a lot of it on people who already had jobs. Of the people who didn’t have jobs, you’ve got about 6,000 who [now] have jobs, at least as of today; and those jobs include people who basically just are working on modern diesel trucks.”

“You said it yourself in your own testimony,” Issa continued grilling Solis. “It’s broad training. So, the statistics of who got jobs and who didn’t have jobs can well be on the periphery of what most people consider to be ‘green jobs.’ As a matter of fact, if they left that training and came to work for Mr. [Rep. Elijah] Cummings [the Ranking Member Democrat on the committee] and they’re here on the hearing toda ey, it will probably end up being counted as ‘green jobs.’”

When Issa asked Hall if he counted among the administration’s “green jobs” numbers those 1,000 employees Solyndra recently laid off after going bankrupt, Hall replied: “I don’t know.”

Democrats on the committee continued to claim “green jobs” were, in fact, created, and that Issa’s hearing title, “How Obama’s Green Energy Agenda is Killing Jobs,” wasn’t fair or accurate. Republicans countered that the relatively few “green jobs” $500 million in spending created are only sustainable as long as government subsidies continue.

Heritage Foundation fellow Ernest Istook, the former GOP congressman from Oklahoma, said that’s exactly the problem with the idea of “green jobs.”

“Green jobs are about government subsidies, cronyism, and job cannibalism,” Istook said. “They aren’t self-sustaining because they rely on giveaways of taxpayer money and they cannibalize existing jobs.”

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