A Spanish paper that claimed support for green jobs “may destroy two jobs for every one created” has been debunked by an official publication of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The paper’s conclusions — led by Exxon-funded libertarian Gabriel Calzada — have been cited by GOP leaders, Fox News, right-wing columnists, conservative think tanks, and Big Oil front groups to attack President Obama’s green economic agenda. However, the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) finds that the Spanish authors’ claim that renewable support kills jobs “is not supported by their work”:
The analysis by the authors from King Juan Carlos University represents a significant divergence from traditional methodologies used to estimate employment impacts from renewable energy. In fact, the methodology does not reflect an employment impact analysis. Accordingly, the primary conclusion made by the authors — policy support of renewable energy results in net jobs losses — is not supported by their work.
NREL reveals that what Republicans have called a “50-page empirical study” could have been written by ten-year-olds. All the study does is calculate two ratios of Spanish economic figures — renewable subsidies vs. private capital and subsidies vs. average productivity — and then draw extravagant conclusions not only about the Spanish economy, but project them onto the United States. Here are a few of the fundamental limitations, technical errors, and false assumptions drawn from NREL’s takedown of Calzada’s work of pseudo-economics:
The metrics used in the Spanish study are not jobs impact estimates. The primary conclusion of the report is that the Spanish economy has experienced job loss as a result of its RE installations. However, comparing the RE subsidy per job with the Spanish economy’s average capital per job and average productivity per job is not a measure of job loss.
The report lacks transparency and supporting statistics. It is striking that the authors’ calculations with two very different economic metrics generate the same result. The authors claim this increases their confidence in their result. However, because there is no statistical analysis, it does not seem reasonable to draw conclusions regarding confidence in either result. The authors also fail to justify their chosen methodology or cite others who have applied a similar methodology.
The authors assume that a dollar spent by the government is less efficient than a dollar spent by private industry and that it crowds out private investment. Government spending may be more or less efficient than private investment. To the extent that government spending is a correction for market failures (e.g., existing fossil fuel subsidies, environmental externalities), it is less likely to represent an inefficient allocation of resources. Furthermore, there is no justification given for the assumption that government spending (e.g., tax credits or subsidies) would force out private investment. This assumption is fundamental to the conclusion that Spain’s renewable energy policy has resulted in job loss.
Calzada also “fails to account for technology export potential,” “relies on jobs estimates that were developed in 2003 and do not reflect Spain’s RE industries in 2009,” and “relies on jobs as the sole metric to assess the value of renewable energy.” NREL’s Suzanne Tegen, a Ph.D. energy market analyst, and Eric Lantz conclude with a summary of what serious economic analysis of the impact of renewable energy investments has found:
In general, comprehensive analyses show that net employment impacts are sensitive to assumptions regarding future energy prices, strategies for addressing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions, and the capacity to export technology. With increased awareness of potential energy price scenarios, recent research has found that it is only when conventional energy prices are forecast to be very low that net employment impacts from RE investments are negative.
In other words, unless you live in a world where global warming and oil spills don’t exist, and fossil fuels remain cheap forever, government investment in renewable energy creates jobs — just what our nation needs now.
(H/T Pete Altman)