by Adam James, Jorge Madrid, and Bracken Hendricks
A lot of bogus numbers are flying around about green jobs these days. It’s time to set the record straight: Clean energy is a bright spot in the economic recovery, already creating large numbers of high quality U.S. jobs in emerging industries. Cleantech (primarily clean energy) has seen “torrid growth” from 2003 to 2010, 8.3% per year — almost double the growth rate of the overall economy during that time.
What began as a concerted smear campaign, started by a small number of conservative pundits to score political points during an election year, has unfortunately picked up steam in mainstream news outlets. Recently, the New York Times distorted the record on clean energy jobs and missed the real news story. In this post, we take these arguments head on and set the record straight on green jobs.
Reality: Critics are actively and unethically smearing a crucial American industry
Earlier this month, President Obama visited a Johnson Controls plant in Holland, Michigan that is being brought on line with the help of Recovery Act funds, to manufacture advanced batteries in the U.S.A. for state of the art electric vehicles. In order to encourage development of three separate next-generation facilities for researching and producing batteries for clean cars, the government issued a $299 million grant to Johnson Controls.
In the first quarter of this year, this project had already created 148 jobs on a path to hiring 3,000 workers. According to the website www.recovery.gov:
“In preparation for building a new plant we have created positions necessary to manage the plant, manage the plant launch, and specify plant layout and required equipment, strategic sourcing, and to put plant system infrastructure in place. We have created positions necessary to hire plant staff and provide the on-boarding and technical training for new employees.”
However, a frenzy of conservative news outlets used the opportunity to claim that the jobs created at the plant cost federal taxpayers $2 million per person. (By simply dividing $299 million by 148 jobs outlined in the recovery.gov report, you conveniently get $2.02 million per job.)
That number is absolutely wrong and purposefully misleading.
The original article, whose headline boldly read “OBAMA VISTS CORPORATION WHERE HIS STIMULUS CREATED ‘GREEN’ JOBS AT $2 MILLION PER JOB” quietly admits further down in the article that this price is true only “if no more jobs are added.” Not surprisingly, the headline was not circulated with this critical disclaimer.
The article also failed to mention that development is less than 50% complete, less than one third of the funds have been spent, and further expansion will create thousands of jobs in the coming years. According to Johnson Controls, around 3,000 jobs will be created in the construction and operation of three separate facilities built with the $299 million grant.
That means the federal government is actually creating one job with every $100,000 spent on the project – not $2 million as this misleading coverage asserts. This investment in jobs actually compares very favorably to job creation from other types of energy projects. According to U.S. Government statistics, the “price” of job creation is $145,000 per job for coal projects, over $193,000 per job in the oil and gas industry favored by conservative commentators, and a whopping $238,000 per job created from nuclear energy, or more than twice the cost per job when compared to energy efficiency.