Thursday, February 17, 2011


President Obama’s recent State of the Union Address reprised the “green jobs” theme that he constantly touted in his 2008 campaign as the key to America’s economic future. Those stump speeches were regularly punctuated with references to the great job Spain was doing in this arena.

At least candidate Obama’s misguided economic assessment occurred before the release of a 2009 study by a research team from Madrid’s King Juan Carlos University that concluded Spain’s green energy programs destroyed twice as many private sector jobs as they created. A subsequent Danish study (“Wind Energy: The Case of Denmark”) reached similarly damning conclusions.

Candidate Jerry Brown could not plausibly claim ignorance of these studies when last year he employed the President’s eco-mantra in his successful gubernatorial race--promising 500,000 jobs based on various green incentives and subsidies.

Brown could, however, as Obamaphiles in the media have done, ignore or disparage the European studies. Indeed, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (the “renewables” branch of Obama's Energy Department) issued its own dismissive review of the Spanish study.

Not surprisingly, the czars, czarinas and “czardines” in the Energy Department don’t like the idea that they aren't indispensable to the welfare of the nation—and are quite likely economic liabilities.

Thus, the NREL analysis found fault with the Spanish study’s comparison of the how much it cost to create a government-subsidized green job with costs per worker in the private sector. It also saw nothing amiss with the fact that each government green job cost over $700,000.

As an Institute for Energy Research analysis sarcastically notes, NREL’s more “sophisticated” analysis assumes that money grows on trees rather than coming from private sector taxpayers.

NREL also envisions significant job growth in Spain based on their ability to export energy technologies to the rest of the world—an assumption that’s constantly applied by green politicians to California’s renewable future. Spain, in other words, will gain jobs, by becoming the “white elephant” supplier of inefficient energy technologies to gullible countries throughout the world.

One is free to pick among dueling studies, but the real proof is in the economic pudding. Spain, as of January of this year, had an unemployment rate of over 20% and rising—this after a decade of sponsoring the kind of programs about which Obama and Brown speak effusively. California, which has followed similar green policies for years, has an unemployment rate over 12%--well over the national average.

With all the green hot air blowing out of Sacramento, the Golden State may soon be replicating Spain’s even more abysmal economic performance.

Thursday, February 03, 2011


After the President’s State of the Union address, we now know how the U.S. will deal with an annual budget deficit of 1.5 trillion dollars. (That’s $1,500,000,000,000.) The answer is “green jobs” and high-speed rail.

California, with an unemployment rate of 12.5 % and a huge, chronic budget deficit, knows all about the benefits of green jobs and high-speed rail.

A bit more than two years ago, well-funded greenies and their government cohorts convinced gullible California voters to begin the process of building a high-speed rail system that’s ultimately supposed to travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles to San Diego (via the Inland Empire).

The price tag for the general obligation bonds approved in November of 2008 was 9.95 billion dollars—a figure doubtless chosen to keep the total discreetly under double-digits and to imply that government estimates on such projects can be calculated with precision.

It is instructive, however, to recall that when Medicare cost a mere three billion dollars in 1966, an inflation-adjusted estimate for the program in 1990 was twelve billion. The actual cost in that year was 107 billion. Multiplying official estimates by 8 or 9 is often a good way to approximate a program’s actual cost.

Case in point: North County’s cute Sprinter rail system from Escondido to Oceanside was estimated in 1990 to cost about $60 million. It ended up at 477 million. Following suite, the Rail Authority estimate for the state high-speed rail system increased from 33.6 to 42.6 billion in 2009 alone. If ditzy Californians insist on throwing more money down a rail hole, the final cost, according to economic journalist Robert Samuelson, “could easily approach 200 billion.”

The benefits of such projects, by contrast, regularly run well below estimates. Sprinter daily ridership, for example, was projected at 11,000 per day—increasing to 20,000 by 2020. In fact, ridership has yet to crack a 9,000 average, even for the best months.

Similarly, fare projections for a one-way high-speed rail trip from LA to the Bay Area have already increased from $55 during the Prop 1A campaign to $105. Topping all these disappointments, Samuelson has argued that the project’s crucial environmental benefits will be minimal to nonexistent.

In the meantime, the California High-Speed Rail Authority provides on its website a glowing image of 600,000 construction-related jobs that will eventually produce a cluster of gleaming trains traveling at speeds up to 220 mph past a bevy of active wind-turbines.

The highly optimistic Rail Authority completion date for the LA-to-the-Bay backbone of the system is 2020—yet another “shovel-ready” project. And voters should know exactly what those taxpayer-funded scoopers will be shoveling.