Politics

Controversial green jobs program to get axed in sequester

Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

A controversial Bureau of Labor Statistics program that tracks U.S. green jobs will get the axe, according to Bloomberg News, because of the automatic budget cuts, called the sequester, which are set to take effect today if lawmakers can’t reach an alternative agreement.

Bloomberg reports that a Feb. 26 email sent to Labor Department employees said a clean-energy survey would be one of three data reports cut due to sequestration, according to Bloomberg’s anonymous source.

“It’s a huge loss,” said Center for American Progress senior fellow Bracken Hendricks. “This means the U.S. will be flying blind on the growth of a very, very important sector in the U.S. economy.”

“This was never a real report, but rather propaganda designed to advance a misleading political narrative,” California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg. “From its inception it was an abuse of taxpayer dollars and it’s unfortunate it took the sequester to make the Administration realize it.”

President Obama promised to create 5 million green jobs during the 2008 presidential campaign and included $90 billion green energy spending in the 2009 stimulus.

However, spending to create green jobs became a hot political topic after the high-profile failure of the solar company Solyndra which got a $535 million loan guarantee from the Energy Department. The company suffered financial troubles and filed for bankruptcy in August 2011, laying off 1,100 workers.

Another company, Abound Solar, got a $400 million Energy Department loan guarantee. Abound went bankrupt and shed 280 employees after taking $70 million of the loan guarantee. A Daily Caller News Foundation investigation later revealed that Abound was selling underperforming solar panels, and may have misled lenders to keep itself afloat.

Last year, the Labor Department reported in March that there are 3.1 million people employed in green jobs nationwide, with 2.3 million private sector green jobs and 860,300 public sector green jobs.

However, that number was heavily criticized by congressional Republicans as being misleading. Issa grilled senior Labor Department officials about how they counted green jobs.

Issa found that oil lobbyists, bus drivers, garbage men, bicycle shop employees and used-record store clerks were counted as green jobs by the Obama administration.

A separate Labor Department green jobs training program got $500 million, but only trained fewer than 31,000 people were trained the program and fewer than 12,000 people held onto green jobs longer than six months.

“The impact of the Recovery Act Green Jobs training program has been limited in terms of reported employment outcomes,” stated the report.

A congressional hearing last year showed that the $10 billion spent on the Section 1603 green energy grant program only created an estimated 8,042 jobs in construction and operations — a cost of $1.2 million per job.

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