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Green Jobs Myths

Green Jobs Myths

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Published by: editorial.online on May 04, 2009
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10/18/2011

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The problems with the methodologies of green jobs studies that we have identified are

grounds for caution in accepting their policy proposals. Before trillions of dollars in public and

private resources are directed into promoting “green jobs,” we need to have a better

understanding of the details of how such programs will transform our economy. What jobs will

be considered “green” and why? Who will decide which jobs are green “enough”? Decision

makers need to be skeptical about projections based on small base numbers and rapid expansion

of technologies not well developed. We should worry about proposals that glorify low labor

productivity, the modern version of the Luddites.267

262

See, e.g., Ernst Friedrich Schumacher, SMALLISBEAUTIFUL:ECONOMICS AS IFPEOPLE MATTERED (1973) (the best seller of its

day).

263

The green jobs proponents have a long way to go to demonstrate the viability of a scheme of higher-paying jobs for most of

humanity in the absence of capital that increases productivity. This turns economic theory—and human experience—upside

down.

264

SeeSchultze,supra note 237.

265

Petroleum products are used in some chemical and pharmaceutical products. David S. J. Stan Jones and Peter R. Pujadó, eds.,

HANDBOOK OF PETROLEUMPROCESSING (2006), at 1. A 42-gallon barrel of crude oil yields over 44 gallons of petroleum products,

including asphalt, petrochemical feedstock and lubricants. U.S. Government Accountability Office, MOTORFUELS:

UNDERSTANDING THE FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE THE RETAIL PRICE OF GASOLINE (2005), at 1.

266

See, e.g., Waste Management Authority, THEDUTCHWASTE PROFILE 1990-20057 (2006) (“The environmental regulations

lead to increased capital intensity, increase in scale of the installations and economy of scale.”).

267

SeeKirkpatrick Sale, Avowedly Low-tech: America’s New Luddites, LEMONDEDIPLOMATIQUE, Feb. 1997 (John Howe trans.,

English ed.), available at http://mondediplo.com/1997/02/20luddites (describing efforts to create coalition including

environmentalists “to establish the legitimacy of resisting technological change.”).

Green Jobs Myths

Page 49

Our survey of problems in the green jobs literature is not merely methodological nit-

picking, although we do have many methodological issues with the literature. All of the issues

we have identified have a common theme: the masking of critically important policy choices

beneath a series of questionable assumptions and definitions. Before billions, or perhaps trillions,

of dollars are committed to an effort to remake human society on the basis of these assumptions,

Americans deserve a full and open debate informed by the best data and analytical methods.

Thus far the push for green jobs has provided neither. In addition to these problems, there are

problems with how the green jobs literature approaches economic issues. We now turn to

considering these.

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