For many years, the left has sought to deflect criticisms of its job-killing economic ideology with the false promise that government investment in green technology would create a renaissance in American manufacturing, as if more government could cure the injuries caused by too much government.
The problem with the socialists’ “green jobs” theory is that the contrived incentives designed by academics, politicians, and speculators who are overtly hostile to industry can’t overcome the adversarial regulatory, tax, and tort climate that drives capital investment and jobs out of this country. Their puny temporary ladders won’t get anyone over their enormous permanent fences.
Recent failures of several prominent “green” showcase projects – Evergreen Solar, SpectraWatt, Tulsa, to name just a few - demonstrate the obvious point that well-intentioned environmentalists can not seem to grasp: the laws of economics, just like the laws of physics, can not be amended to fit our hopes, beliefs, and desires.
The foundry does not know whether its castings will be used to make windmills or nuclear warheads. It only knows that the EPA is cutting off its energy supply, the NLRB wants to impose a union, new health care mandates increase its operating costs, their unemployment insurance rates are going through the roof, and DOL raised their minimum wage.
If they can somehow survive the fishing expeditions of OSHA, ADA, EEOC, and IRS auditors, they get to take on the harassment of state and local bureaucracies and a network of collaborating environmental activists hell-bent on shutting them down. If they are still standing, a fleet of slip-n-trip lawyers awaits, hoping to hit the lottery with a non-stop barrage of spurious lawsuits and class-action shakedowns.
If you are looking for climate change that will improve our standard of living, start with changing the hostile business climate that has driven industry after industry off-shore, unilaterally surrendered our energy independence, and destroyed our economic base. The green jobs are being created in China for the same reason all the other jobs are being created in China – the left won’t let us make things here.
But the folks who make those puny temporary ladders are living large. Somebody has to write the bills that start the money flowing, somebody has to write the grants asking for the handouts, somebody must manage the subsidies to make sure they are all being properly peed away, somebody must lobby for more spending, somebody must market the boondoggles, somebody must drive Al Gore’s limousine, light T-Boone Pickens’ cigars, and buy Bill Gates’ software to blog about climate change.
And don’t forget conferences – lots and lots of conferences – and research – can’t have a proper gluttonous orgy at the public trough without research. How did that song go? Look for…the union la-bel….guess what strings are attached to the construction of the alternative energy infrastructure that goes belly up a few years after it is built, even with operating subsidies that run into the billions. There’s your green jobs; some union patronage and an expansion of the public payroll dole whose only long-term return on our green investment will be even higher pension liabilities we can’t pay for.
The first solar panel was patented in 1888; the first wind turbine factory was built in 1891; bio-fuels preceded oil as a source for combustion engines. If these were economically viable energy sources, the private sector would have developed and deployed them to scale decades ago. Fact is, the massive amounts of energy it takes to make and move the things that 310 million Americans want can not be produced by renewable sources; only by the three F’s – fossil, fission, and fusion.
Environmentalists argue that fossil fuels are also heavily subsidized; that the cost of harm to the commons – pollution of the air and water and consequences of CO2 emissions – are not born by the energy producers, who are viewed as profiteering free riders. Their complaints extend to mining, agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, virtually every goods-producing field of endeavor. It is a valid argument as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough.
Imagine yourself sitting in an intensive care unit, praying for your severely injured child to survive the night. Look around: everything made of plastic came from a barrel of oil. Everything made of metal or glass was mined. Every woven good was made in factories that run on fossil fuel energy. Every light, pump, monitor, and communications device is consuming energy and emitting carbon as it works to save her life. And every single thing in that room, including your precious little girl and the doctors and nurses who will deliver God’s answer to your prayers, was transported there in a vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine. The only reason any of those things came into existence is because capitalists made money on them.
Was their profit excessive? Is the tragedy of the commons more important than the tragedy of human potential unnecessarily denied? Not if it is my little girl.
Maurice Strong, head of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and until recently, Executive Officer for Reform in the U.N. Secretary General's office, put the climate change industry’s cards on the table, when he wrote, "Isn't the only hope for the planet that the industrialized nations collapse? Isn't it our responsibility to bring that about?"
No, Mr. Strong, it isn’t. Our responsibility is to insure that liberty is restored in this nation, so that little girls and boys grow up and thrive in a land of opportunity, liberty, and prosperity. The only hope for the planet is that guys like you have the right to freely speak your mind, but no power to impose your ridiculous notions onto others.
The planet will be saved when human potential is liberated from the burden of government-imposed mediocrity, when education displaces indoctrination in government-monopoly schools, and when free market capitalism forces socialist state crony-corporatism into hasty retreat.
Less government means more real jobs; and real jobs come in all colors – including green. We have wasted enough time on the wrong answer, and we need to get government out of the way of market solutions that will solve our most urgent problems.
“Moment Of Clarity” is a weekly commentary by Libertarian writer and speaker Tim Nerenz, Ph.D. Visit Tim’s website www.timnerenz.com to find your moment and order his new book, “Tooth Fairy Government.”