April 28, 2011
The Environmentalists Need to Stop Crying Wolf
George Jonas, National Post, April 28, 2011
A study released this week concludes that government “green-job” programs aren’t the yellow-brick road to happiness in Europe. “Green programs in Spain destroyed 2.2 jobs for every job created,” write Kenneth P. Green and Ben Eisen in their paper for the Winnipeg-based think-tank, Frontier Centre, “while the capital needed for one green job in Italy could create five new jobs in the general economy.”
Pity the Greens, here and around the globe. Things haven’t been going their way in the last couple of years, ever since those pesky e-mails surfaced in Britain — the ones showing that Green-tinged scientists at the climatic-research unit of the University of East Anglia got carried away with the nobility of their global-warming mantras. All in a good cause, of course, but still, “it’s no use pretending this isn’t a major blow,” as George Monbiot wrote in Britain’s The Guardian in the fall of 2009.
Actually, 2009 may have been the first year of serious reversal for the Green movement that has gone from triumph to triumph for the past 50 years. The astrologers and alchemists of ecology have been merrily reading tea leaves and crying wolf for almost half a century.
Like many millennial movements, the Greens started out as a mixed bag. They included concerned citizens, calculating statists and hysterical sentimentalists. Some were sober and practical enough, trying to identify genuine problems; others had a variety of issues and agendas, espousing or pretending to espouse the Earth’s cause with religious fervour. Masquerading as scientists, spouting scientific jargon and aping scientific methods, they caught the fancy of the zeitgeist, gradually advancing from the partisans of the Earth to its administrators and police.
In Europe, Greens became a direct political force, while in North America they piggybacked their politics, policies and rhetoric on the traditional political parties. Their influence extended across the spectrum. All parties mouthed their shibboleths, with the parties on the left — in Canada, the NDP — making the loudest noises.
The Frontier Centre’s paper quotes U.S. President Barack Obama still singing the praises of the greening of Spain in 2009 — “particularly around key issues like renewable energy and transportation, where Spain has been a worldwide leader” — just before a group of researchers headed by Gabriel Calzada Alvarez at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos released their findings about the actual cost of each “green job” created by Obama’s “worldwide leader.” It was a staggering three-quarters of a million dollars ($791,597, to be precise), indicating that the Middle East isn’t the only region where America’s Commander-in-Chief is sorely in need of a reality check.
Alvarez and his researchers also found that each “green” megawatt installed “destroys 5.28 jobs on average elsewhere in the economy.” This week Green-Eisen conclude that “far from generating a new source of economic growth, job creation and government revenue, Spain has found its foray into renewable energy to be unsustainable.”
Italy and Germany, if anything, fare worse. “As with Spain, corruption runs rampant through the renewable-energy sector,” write Green-Eisen. “In Italy, however, rather than having numerous individuals defrauding the government, the Mafia is involved.” As for Germany, utilities are required by law to purchase solar energy at 59 cents per kWh. Conventional electricity costs range from a high of 10 cents to a low of three. Federal subsidies for electricity have risen 300%, and household costs on average by 7.5%. That’s in a country where the Greens are political heavyweights. In the United Kingdom, “for every job created in renewable energy, 3.7 jobs are lost.”
What price “green” energy? That price, and worse, assuming Green and other researchers are right, as I suspect they are. And what are we paying this price for? We’re not boiling the globe like a lobster, as they led us believe we were, so what are we paying it for? What are we paying it for if we’re not running out of fossil fuels, and our nuclear reactors aren’t melting us down all the way to China as we were told they might in the 1970s?
Are we paying for the paranoia, self-righteousness and dictatorial ambitions of a quasi-religious, pseudo-Luddite, bio-worshipping ideology? It seems like that and maybe it is — but I wonder. The Earth can sustain more than Al Gore, the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the Alberta Federation of Labor and their little green friends claim it can, but it can’t sustain everything. It may, for instance, not be able to sustain American levels of energy consumption by seven billion people.
The wolf isn’t at the door — but there is a wolf. There’s a whole pack of them out there. They’re hungry and they’ve big teeth.
The boy in the fable who cries wolf doesn’t do much damage when he sounds his false alarm. He’s just a nuisance — maybe a bloody nuisance, but that’s all. The damage comes when his alarm is real but nobody listens. I suspect this may yet become the story of the Green lobby.
The Frontier Centre for Public Policy
is an independent public policy think tank whose mission is "to broaden the debate on our future through public policy research and education and to explore positive changes within our public institutions that support economic growth and opportunity."