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In ‘Green Jobs Myths,’ Pollution Industry Economists Claim A Sustainable Economy Is A ‘Ponzi Scheme’

By Brad Johnson  

"In ‘Green Jobs Myths,’ Pollution Industry Economists Claim A Sustainable Economy Is A ‘Ponzi Scheme’"


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In a polluter-funded piece masquerading as an academic study, three conservative economists and a librarian attack “green job myths.” Led by economist Andrew Morriss in a piece funded by the Institute for Energy Research, they argue:

Our review of the claims of green jobs proponents, however, leaves us skeptical because the green jobs literature is rife with internal contradictions, vague terminology, dubious science, and ignorance of basic economic principles. Indeed, the green jobs literature claims resemble the promises of long-term financial prosperity offered by Ponzi schemes. New taxes, increased public borrowing, and government subsidies will be needed to support green jobs programs. We find no evidence that these “investments” in green jobs can support the promised results. Investing taxpayers’ money in developing green jobs as an economic and environmental panacea, are likely, like a Ponzi scheme, to result in empty bank accounts.

As Joe Romm explains at Climate Progress, the Institute for Energy Research’s supposed “facts” are in fact illogical and internally inconsistent arguments.

Furthermore, the only “Ponzi scheme” when it comes to energy policy is continuing a debt-and-depletion fossil fuel economy. A global economy dependent on non-renewable resources, by definition, cannot be sustained indefinitely — even if pollution were not a concern. At some point easily recoverable oil, coal, and other fuels that took millions of years to form will run out — and some experts believe that time is at hand. Furthermore, because of global warming, continuing our use of fossil fuels without limit, scientists warn, will lead to catastrophe within decades. Nowhere in this 97-page piece is the economic reality of climate change addressed.

Andrew Morriss, the lead author, is a fossil-funded conservative ideologue. Morriss believes that the United States “made a wrong turn” when the Clean Air Act was passed and the Environmental Protection Agency was created, despite a four-decade record of economic growth and environmental protection that even the coal industry trumpets. Morriss is impressively employed by three different fossil-fueled right-wing think tanks: the Mercatus Center — founded and funded by the Koch fossil energy fortune, the Institute for Energy Research — founded and funded by the fossil energy industry, and the Property and Environment Research Center — founded and funded by Scaife and Koch fossil energy fortunes.

In fairness to the authors — Morriss, PERC fellow Roger E. Meiners, York College economist William Bogart, and law librarian Andrew Dorchak — admit in a footnote to their full paper that “readers should be just as skeptical of us as we are of the authors of the various green jobs reports”:

Readers should be just as skeptical of us as we are of the authors of the various green jobs reports. Three of us are traditional economists (i.e. not “ecological economists” or some other variety) trained at mainstream economics Ph.D. programs and inclined to be skeptical of claims that governments or international NGOs such as UNEP can effectively induce significant improvements in the U.S. economy without causing significant costs. This Article was produced with support from the Institute for Energy Research, a nonprofit organization that favors market solutions to energy issues where one of us (Morriss) is a Senior Fellow. While we think it likely that IER asked us to undertake this project with a pretty good guess where our professional skepticism would likely lead us, neither IER nor anyone else had advance approval rights over our results or interfered in any way with our analysis. We suspect the same is true of the authors of the reports discussed herein – that the people who commissioned the reports had reasonable ideas about how the results might come out given the authors they selected. Healthy skepticism is our recommendation for all analyses of green job claims, including ours.

It’s a pity their piece — which warns of “utopian experiments” in “autarky,” “scientific mumbo-jumbo,” “a society based on centrally-directed, politically-determined choices,” and “planners, politicians, patricians, or plutocrats who want others to live lives they think other people should be forced to lead” — was not written with the same moderate, self-effacing tone of the footnote.

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