Slugging it out in the debates over federal energy policies can be a thankless task, but sometimes you have a fun day. For example, Rep. Darrell Issa’s June 6 grilling of representatives from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics on their definition of “green jobs” is laugh-out-loud funny. Beyond the humor, Issa’s pointed questions underline the arbitrariness of the whole “green jobs” agenda, not to mention the dubious economic rationales put forward by its proponents.
Before delving into the weightier issues, enjoy some comic relief by watching this 2-minute video:
IER was on to the BLS’ hilariously “big tent” methodology when its “Green Goods and Services” index first came out. Upon the release in March, we wrote:
[T]he 3.1 million “green” goods and services don’t come solely from guys building solar panels. There are plenty of things thrown in there, such as nuclear power plants, people whose job it is to write grant proposals, federal and state government officials who enforce regulations, and even logging and petroleum & coal products manufacturing. Some of these are hardly what the layperson would think of as “green jobs.”
Yet the problem wasn’t merely one of overzealous counting. We went on to question the very focus on “green jobs” in the first place:
In the context of today’s political debates, “green jobs” is a pointless concept, as IER’s study from 2009 demonstrated. The government has no business picking winners and losers, whether green, blue, or yellow. One reason is that the government does a poor job of picking winners—just consider the debacles of Solyndra, Beacon Power, Evergreen Solar, Range Fuels, and many other businesses that received special favors from the government because they create “green jobs” but fail in the marketplace. The market economy will direct resources to their most efficient niches, and jobs will grow in those sectors where labor can be most effectively deployed.
The point of an economy isn’t to “create jobs,” whether green, yellow, or blue. The point is to efficiently allocate scarce resources—including labor—into the appropriate sectors, in order to best satisfy consumers given the constraints imposed on us by nature. Yes, a well-functioning economy will create jobs for workers, but that is a by-product of the more fundamental task.
The government doesn’t help citizens, or even the environment for that matter, by artificially promoting certain jobs that it designates as “green.” As Chairman Issa’s recent questioning makes clear, the entire “green jobs” agenda is built on quicksand.