Systemic flaws in the 'green jobs' idea 

My arguments against Obama's "green jobs" push are often based in a free-market belief (subsidies and mandates are bad) and in these initiatives' tendency to turn into boondoggles for the well-connected.

But many folks on the Left and the center-Right believe in government steering the economy, and think that government cooperation with big business is often a good thing. I'd put the New America Foundation in that camp. But the folks at NAF tweeted today to express agreement with me on "green jobs."

For one thing, there's the fact that our green subsidies often spur foreign manufacturers. I wrote today about a new $2.1 billion subsidy to a German company that will use German-made robots to make high-precision mirrors for a solar power plant.

Samuel Sherradan at NAF contends that this sort of thing is systemic:

data on production of green technologies globally show that the United States is becoming less competitive. Looking at the "green trade balance," or the balance of trade in goods for reducing pollution, increasing energy efficiency and producing renewable energy, the United States moved from a trade surplus of $14.4 billion in 1997 to a trade deficit of $8.9 billion in 2008.

Thus, job creation for production of green technologies may occur far more outside than inside the United States. Investing in green energy will create jobs, but many of these jobs may be created elsewhere.

Again, Sherradan doesn't agree with most of what I say on subsidies and government's role in the economy, but I think he's spot on here:

Even if the green energy sector were to grow 50 percent overnight, it would be able to do so only on the back of heavy government subsidies and with limited returns to the economy. This 50 percent increase in green employment would not even make up for the jobs lost in any single month of 2009.

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Timothy P. Carney

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