The term "green jobs" (a.k.a. "green-energy jobs" or "green-collar jobs") refers to employment in industries dedicated to the decarbonization of the economy; i.e., less reliance on energy derived from fossil fuels, and more reliance on "sustainable" and "renewable" energy sources like the wind and the sun. Apollo Alliance chairman Phil Angelides, a venture capitalist who was the (unsuccessful) Democratic candidate for governor of California in 2006, defines a "green job" as follows: "It has to pay decent wages and benefits that can support a family. It has to be part of a real career path, with upward mobility. And it needs to reduce waste and pollution and benefit the environment."
For Angelides and his allies the definition of a "green-collar job" extends still further, to include virtually anything that theoretically will foster a cleaner future for America -- i.e., jobs in the public-transit sector, in "green building," and in energy efficiency of all types. In this model, a traditional blue-collar job such as automobile manufacturing becomes a green-collar job if the product is a hybrid vehicle rather than an SUV.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, candidate Barack Obama pledged to spend $150 billion over 10 years to create 5 million new "green-collar jobs." Fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton likewise used that term repeatedly during her campaign, promising that her energy plan would create millions of new "green" employment opportunities as well. Republican John McCain, too, assured voters that the decarbonization of the U.S. economy would ultimately produce "thousands, millions of new jobs in America."
In practice, however, efforts to create large numbers of green jobs have had severe economic repurcussions wherever they have been implemented, most notably in Spain, Italy, Germany, and Denmark. In his February 2011 article, "The Myth of Green Energy Jobs: The European Experience," environmental scientist Kenneth P. Green writes that "green programs in Spain destroyed 2.2 jobs for every green job created, while the capital needed for one green job in Italy could create almost five jobs in the general economy." Contrary to President Obama's claim that green-job initiatives "will help close the clean-energy gap between America and other nations," Green points out that "countries are cutting these programs because they realize they aren't sustainable and they are obscenely expensive."
Green further debunks Obama's claim that if Americans will "invest" more in green jobs, "the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of jobs -- but only if we accelerate that transition." Writes Green:
"It is well understood, among economists, that governments do not 'create' jobs. The willingness of entrepreneurs to invest their capital, paired with consumer demand for goods and services, does that. All the government can do is subsidize some industries while jacking up costs for others. In the green case, it is destroying jobs in the conventional energy sector -- and most likely in other industrial sectors -- through taxes and subsidies to new green companies that will use taxpayer dollars to undercut the competition. The subsidized jobs 'created' are, by definition, less efficient uses of capital than market-created jobs.... [F]orcing green energy on the market [is] much, much more expensive. Using Spain as a model, when you do the math, you realize that creating 3 million new green jobs could cost $2.25 trillion."
That figure is derived from the fact that in 2010 the Spanish government paid $800,000 for every "green job" on a solar-panel assembly line. But as journalist Mark Steyn reported in September 2011, the cost-per-job under the Obama administration's $38.6 billion "clean technology" program -- which, according to Obama, was supposed to "create or save" 65,000 jobs -- amounted to $4.85 million per "green job."
As the libertarian political commentator John Stossel explains, green energy's economic inefficiency is due to the fact that its success depends entirely on "the government substitut[ing] force and taxation for consent and free exchange." Thus, "[i]nstead of a process driven by consumer preferences, we get one imposed by politicians' grand social designs."
In May 2013, an Institute for Energy Research (IER) study reported that since 2009, the Department of Energy’s $26 billion loan program -- 80% of whose loans went to companies owned by or connected to President Obama’s leading campaign fundraisers -- had created just 2,298 permanent jobs, at a cost of $11.45 million per job created. “The losers are the American workers who would otherwise be gainfully employed but for the tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars on the administration’s obsession with ‘green energy,’” said IER Policy Associate Alex Fitzsimmons. “As the economy continues to suffer and dollars for federal programs get harder to come by, it is getting increasingly difficult to defend a program that costs so much and produces so little.”