Commentary Magazine


Topic: clean energy

Obama’s Green Jobs Efforts Still a Bust

Reuters takes a look at the status of President Obama’s signature “green jobs” push, which the administration has already pumped billions into, and finds some dismal results:

But the millions of “green jobs” Obama promised have been slow to sprout, disappointing many who had hoped that the $90 billion earmarked for clean-energy efforts in the recession-fighting federal stimulus package would ease unemployment – still above 8 percent in March.

Supporters say the administration overpromised on the jobs front and worry that a backlash could undermine support for clean-energy policies in general. …

A $500 million job-training program has so far helped fewer than 20,000 people find work, far short of its goal. …

Gains in the sector don’t necessarily lead to wider employment.

The wind industry, for example, has shed 10,000 jobs since 2009 even as the energy capacity of wind farms has nearly doubled, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry has added 75,000 jobs since Obama took office, according to Labor Department statistics.

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Reuters takes a look at the status of President Obama’s signature “green jobs” push, which the administration has already pumped billions into, and finds some dismal results:

But the millions of “green jobs” Obama promised have been slow to sprout, disappointing many who had hoped that the $90 billion earmarked for clean-energy efforts in the recession-fighting federal stimulus package would ease unemployment – still above 8 percent in March.

Supporters say the administration overpromised on the jobs front and worry that a backlash could undermine support for clean-energy policies in general. …

A $500 million job-training program has so far helped fewer than 20,000 people find work, far short of its goal. …

Gains in the sector don’t necessarily lead to wider employment.

The wind industry, for example, has shed 10,000 jobs since 2009 even as the energy capacity of wind farms has nearly doubled, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry has added 75,000 jobs since Obama took office, according to Labor Department statistics.

The administration’s promises on the green jobs front have shrunk significantly during the past few years. Obama vowed that his plan would create 5 million jobs in 2008, but those projected numbers dwindled to 722,000 (promised by Vice President Biden in 2009) and then to 200,000 (the 2010 White House estimate). And yet the president continues to tout his green jobs campaign, despite its failure to meet expectations.

The problem for Obama is that the green energy industry is really the only energy sector he can try to feign achievement in. He’s killing coal jobs with new regulations, and the GOP won’t let the public forget all the jobs that were cost by his Keystone XL blunder.

Republicans have focused most of their attention on Obama’s Solyndra debacle, and while that’s a compelling symbol for the administration’s overall failure on green energy, it’s also important to note that the green energy problems extend far beyond one unsuccessful company. Obama continues to argue that more money should be funneled into green energy, despite the evidence that his job creation efforts have been a bust. Comparing the billions of dollars that have already been spent to the paltry job creation numbers shows just how much of a money-waste the entire project has been.

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LIVE BLOG: Contradiction II

This:

None of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will be, or where the new jobs will come from.

And this:

We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo Projects of our time.

Sounds like he’s decided the next big industry is clean energy, doesn’t it?

This:

None of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will be, or where the new jobs will come from.

And this:

We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo Projects of our time.

Sounds like he’s decided the next big industry is clean energy, doesn’t it?

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LIVE BLOG: The Difference Between Genuine Investment and the Stimulus

The president’s talk about the government’s role in the race for space is intended to make the link between his “investments” in “clean energy” and that great American achievement. But unless his “clean energy” spending actually leads to something that both works and is economically viable, the analogy will break down. It’s fine to talk about electric vehicles as the “Apollo Projects” of our time. But Apollo actually took us to the moon. All “clean energy” has given us so far is the ethanol boondoggle and other projects that haven’t done the job.

The president’s talk about the government’s role in the race for space is intended to make the link between his “investments” in “clean energy” and that great American achievement. But unless his “clean energy” spending actually leads to something that both works and is economically viable, the analogy will break down. It’s fine to talk about electric vehicles as the “Apollo Projects” of our time. But Apollo actually took us to the moon. All “clean energy” has given us so far is the ethanol boondoggle and other projects that haven’t done the job.

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The National Security Strategy of 2010. Or 2006. Whatever.

I’m with my former boss, Les Gelb, who complains that President Obama’s new National Security Strategy is essentially a grab bag of concerns that don’t amount to a coherent strategy. This is evident from the opening letter attached to it under the president’s name:

Our strategy starts by recognizing that our strength and influence abroad begins with the steps we take at home. We must grow our economy and reduce our deficit. We must educate our children to compete in an age where knowledge is capital, and the marketplace is global. We must develop the clean energy that can power new industry, unbind us from foreign oil, and preserve our planet. We must pursue science and research that enables discovery, and unlocks wonders as unforeseen to us today as the surface of the moon and the microchip were a century ago. Simply put, we must see American innovation as a foundation of American power.

This isn’t necessarily wrong, but where do you draw the line? Perhaps finding a new judge to replace Simon Cowell on American Idol is vital to the continued strength of American soft power. By Obama’s reasoning, every facet of American society can be said to have some connection with American policy abroad.

There is much more about domestic policy in this document — as there is about every aspect of foreign policy. There are lines that gladden the heart of more hawkish commentators (like me), including a commitment to “maintain the military superiority that has secured our country, and underpinned global security, for decades”; a ringing endorsement of democracy promotion (“our support for universal rights is both fundamental to American leadership and a source of our strength in the world”); and a vow to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida and its affiliates.”

Naturally, there is even more to gladden the hearts of liberals, including a call for “comprehensive engagement,” a commitment “to engage and modernize international institutions and frameworks,” and to “pursue the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.”

This everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach also entails talk of “strengthening international norms against corruption” and “pursuing a comprehensive global health strategy.”

This is, I suppose, what happens when every branch of government gets to weigh in while such a document is being drafted. But it is possible to do something different. Love it or hate it, the Bush National Security Strategy of 2002 was a truly innovative and influential document that will be long remembered for declaring the need for preventative action against aggressors and terrorists. Eight years later, I can still recalls some of its lines: “The gravest danger our Nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology” and “America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed.”

There is no such intellectual groundbreaking in the Obama document, which is, as Peter Feaver notes, more than anything a continuation, with some slight adjustments, of the National Security Strategy produced by the Bush administration in its second term.

You remember that Bush National Security Strategy of 2006, don’t you? No? You don’t? Well I suspect you won’t remember the Obama strategy of 2010 either.

I’m with my former boss, Les Gelb, who complains that President Obama’s new National Security Strategy is essentially a grab bag of concerns that don’t amount to a coherent strategy. This is evident from the opening letter attached to it under the president’s name:

Our strategy starts by recognizing that our strength and influence abroad begins with the steps we take at home. We must grow our economy and reduce our deficit. We must educate our children to compete in an age where knowledge is capital, and the marketplace is global. We must develop the clean energy that can power new industry, unbind us from foreign oil, and preserve our planet. We must pursue science and research that enables discovery, and unlocks wonders as unforeseen to us today as the surface of the moon and the microchip were a century ago. Simply put, we must see American innovation as a foundation of American power.

This isn’t necessarily wrong, but where do you draw the line? Perhaps finding a new judge to replace Simon Cowell on American Idol is vital to the continued strength of American soft power. By Obama’s reasoning, every facet of American society can be said to have some connection with American policy abroad.

There is much more about domestic policy in this document — as there is about every aspect of foreign policy. There are lines that gladden the heart of more hawkish commentators (like me), including a commitment to “maintain the military superiority that has secured our country, and underpinned global security, for decades”; a ringing endorsement of democracy promotion (“our support for universal rights is both fundamental to American leadership and a source of our strength in the world”); and a vow to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida and its affiliates.”

Naturally, there is even more to gladden the hearts of liberals, including a call for “comprehensive engagement,” a commitment “to engage and modernize international institutions and frameworks,” and to “pursue the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.”

This everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach also entails talk of “strengthening international norms against corruption” and “pursuing a comprehensive global health strategy.”

This is, I suppose, what happens when every branch of government gets to weigh in while such a document is being drafted. But it is possible to do something different. Love it or hate it, the Bush National Security Strategy of 2002 was a truly innovative and influential document that will be long remembered for declaring the need for preventative action against aggressors and terrorists. Eight years later, I can still recalls some of its lines: “The gravest danger our Nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology” and “America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed.”

There is no such intellectual groundbreaking in the Obama document, which is, as Peter Feaver notes, more than anything a continuation, with some slight adjustments, of the National Security Strategy produced by the Bush administration in its second term.

You remember that Bush National Security Strategy of 2006, don’t you? No? You don’t? Well I suspect you won’t remember the Obama strategy of 2010 either.

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Government Creates Wealth?

E.J. Dionne’s column touts Joe Biden’s newfound verve in defending American competitiveness. As Dionne puts it, at least Biden is done for now with defending the indefensible stimulus plan. He assures us that Biden is “more self-aware than people give him credit for.” Whatever. But Dionne then goes off the rails in a revealing bit of liberal demagoguery:

Beneath the predictable back-and-forth between Obama and his Republican adversaries over government spending lies a substantively important difference over how the United States can maintain its global leadership.

For Republicans, American power is rooted largely in military might and showing a tough and resolute face to the world. They would rely on tax cuts as the one and only spur to economic growth.

Obama, Biden and the Democrats, on the other hand, believe that American power depends ultimately on the American economy, and that government has an essential role to play in fostering the next generation of growth.

Republicans don’t care about economic growth? Just military might? Hard to see where he gets that, considering that the post-Reagan conservative movement and the Republican party have been devoted to market capitalism. Indeed, the slur on Republicans has been that all they cared about was wealth creation. Oh, but they are just interested in “tax cuts.” Well, that and free trade, modest regulation, legal reform, and other conditions that spur economic growth, investment, and wealth creation.

Dionne considers this all trivial or dim because he and liberals are convinced that government creates wealth, that public spending creates jobs, and that expansion of the public sector is the way to a brighter future. In fact, he congratulates the president for cheering on the competition in statism with other powers. In the State of the Union, Dionne recalls, the president vowed that no nation would get the jump on us when it comes to government programs. (“Meanwhile, China is not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany is not waiting. India is not waiting. These nations aren’t standing still. These nations aren’t playing for second place. They’re putting more emphasis on math and science. They’re rebuilding their infrastructure. They’re making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs.”)

Dionne gets one thing right, however: there is, indeed, a healthy debate to be had. The Obama budget, which presumably represents his economic vision, sees an ever-rising level of taxes and government spending (also debt because the taxes can’t keep pace with the spending). It includes many expensive programs liberals tell us will increase our competitiveness and spur growth — green jobs, federal education money, and the like.

Conservatives say this is a recipe for continuous high unemployment and low growth, and the experience of high-tax and high-spending countries is not one we want to replicate. Looking around the world and at our own recent past, there’s plenty of evidence that the liberal formula simply doesn’t work. We can become more like our Western European allies, but then we can expect employment, growth, and wealth creation to approximate those countries.

In addition to its economic shortcomings, Democrats might want to think twice about whether touting the wonders of lots of government is a winning economic message. As Michael Barone explains in his tour through the history of American populism:

[Americans] tend to believe that there is a connection between effort and reward and that people can work their way up economically. If people do something to earn their benefits, like paying Social Security taxes, that’s fine. But giving money to those who have not in some way earned it is a no-no. Moreover, like Andrew Jackson, most Americans suspect that some of the income that is redistributed will end up in the hands not of the worthy but of the well-connected. Last year Mr. Obama and his policy strategists seem to have assumed that the financial crisis and deep recession would make Americans look more favorably on big government programs. But it turns out that economic distress did not make us Western Europeans.

So if Biden now wants to become the official spokesman for the premise that “big government creates wealth,” I’m sure the Republicans would be delighted. They’d be even happier if every Democratic incumbent ran on that platform. But somehow I think they won’t get that lucky. Lawmakers are generally more “self-aware” than that.

E.J. Dionne’s column touts Joe Biden’s newfound verve in defending American competitiveness. As Dionne puts it, at least Biden is done for now with defending the indefensible stimulus plan. He assures us that Biden is “more self-aware than people give him credit for.” Whatever. But Dionne then goes off the rails in a revealing bit of liberal demagoguery:

Beneath the predictable back-and-forth between Obama and his Republican adversaries over government spending lies a substantively important difference over how the United States can maintain its global leadership.

For Republicans, American power is rooted largely in military might and showing a tough and resolute face to the world. They would rely on tax cuts as the one and only spur to economic growth.

Obama, Biden and the Democrats, on the other hand, believe that American power depends ultimately on the American economy, and that government has an essential role to play in fostering the next generation of growth.

Republicans don’t care about economic growth? Just military might? Hard to see where he gets that, considering that the post-Reagan conservative movement and the Republican party have been devoted to market capitalism. Indeed, the slur on Republicans has been that all they cared about was wealth creation. Oh, but they are just interested in “tax cuts.” Well, that and free trade, modest regulation, legal reform, and other conditions that spur economic growth, investment, and wealth creation.

Dionne considers this all trivial or dim because he and liberals are convinced that government creates wealth, that public spending creates jobs, and that expansion of the public sector is the way to a brighter future. In fact, he congratulates the president for cheering on the competition in statism with other powers. In the State of the Union, Dionne recalls, the president vowed that no nation would get the jump on us when it comes to government programs. (“Meanwhile, China is not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany is not waiting. India is not waiting. These nations aren’t standing still. These nations aren’t playing for second place. They’re putting more emphasis on math and science. They’re rebuilding their infrastructure. They’re making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs.”)

Dionne gets one thing right, however: there is, indeed, a healthy debate to be had. The Obama budget, which presumably represents his economic vision, sees an ever-rising level of taxes and government spending (also debt because the taxes can’t keep pace with the spending). It includes many expensive programs liberals tell us will increase our competitiveness and spur growth — green jobs, federal education money, and the like.

Conservatives say this is a recipe for continuous high unemployment and low growth, and the experience of high-tax and high-spending countries is not one we want to replicate. Looking around the world and at our own recent past, there’s plenty of evidence that the liberal formula simply doesn’t work. We can become more like our Western European allies, but then we can expect employment, growth, and wealth creation to approximate those countries.

In addition to its economic shortcomings, Democrats might want to think twice about whether touting the wonders of lots of government is a winning economic message. As Michael Barone explains in his tour through the history of American populism:

[Americans] tend to believe that there is a connection between effort and reward and that people can work their way up economically. If people do something to earn their benefits, like paying Social Security taxes, that’s fine. But giving money to those who have not in some way earned it is a no-no. Moreover, like Andrew Jackson, most Americans suspect that some of the income that is redistributed will end up in the hands not of the worthy but of the well-connected. Last year Mr. Obama and his policy strategists seem to have assumed that the financial crisis and deep recession would make Americans look more favorably on big government programs. But it turns out that economic distress did not make us Western Europeans.

So if Biden now wants to become the official spokesman for the premise that “big government creates wealth,” I’m sure the Republicans would be delighted. They’d be even happier if every Democratic incumbent ran on that platform. But somehow I think they won’t get that lucky. Lawmakers are generally more “self-aware” than that.

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No Climate Concession Here

Obama’s State of the Union offered what is being lauded by both liberals and conservatives as a climate-change compromise. The will to compromise is a necessary but welcome development, but don’t be fooled. Obama said:

… we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America. I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year. And this year I’m eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate.

Though Republicans have supported offshore drilling and nuclear energy, this rhetoric pushes toward the same old goal. Such Democratic concessions are the cheap candy offered to entice Republicans toward more efforts like the stalled House cap-and-trade bill. And that sort of cap-and-trade bill is in no way a win for conservatives or for Americans.

The foreign media are reading Obama’s call for a “comprehensive energy and climate bill” as “code in Washington for a broad set of proposals that would also include establishment of a cap and trade program.” And only last week, the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s deputy director said, “There continues to be very strong support among a range of legislators for comprehensive climate legislation that includes cap and trade.” By “range,” he must mean shades of Left.

Obama’s State of the Union offered what is being lauded by both liberals and conservatives as a climate-change compromise. The will to compromise is a necessary but welcome development, but don’t be fooled. Obama said:

… we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America. I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year. And this year I’m eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate.

Though Republicans have supported offshore drilling and nuclear energy, this rhetoric pushes toward the same old goal. Such Democratic concessions are the cheap candy offered to entice Republicans toward more efforts like the stalled House cap-and-trade bill. And that sort of cap-and-trade bill is in no way a win for conservatives or for Americans.

The foreign media are reading Obama’s call for a “comprehensive energy and climate bill” as “code in Washington for a broad set of proposals that would also include establishment of a cap and trade program.” And only last week, the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s deputy director said, “There continues to be very strong support among a range of legislators for comprehensive climate legislation that includes cap and trade.” By “range,” he must mean shades of Left.

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Bizarro Environmental Fight

Barack Obama criticized John McCain sharply for McCain’s global warming speech, deeming it “breathtaking” in light of McCain’s alleged record of voting against (unnamed) efforts for clean energy. McCain’s camp turned the tables and bashed Obama for voting for the Bush energy bill. That’s right: McCain is attacking the Democratic near-nominee for voting with George W. Bush on energy.

McCain also caught a break today from Hillary Clinton, who put out a statement saying, “While Senator McCain’s proposals may be improvement on President Bush’s, that’s not saying much.” It’s been a good day for McCain: he’s distanced himself from President Bush, reminded voters how his opponent voted for the much-demonized Bush-Cheney energy bill, and had Clinton say he’s essentially a centrist.

Barack Obama criticized John McCain sharply for McCain’s global warming speech, deeming it “breathtaking” in light of McCain’s alleged record of voting against (unnamed) efforts for clean energy. McCain’s camp turned the tables and bashed Obama for voting for the Bush energy bill. That’s right: McCain is attacking the Democratic near-nominee for voting with George W. Bush on energy.

McCain also caught a break today from Hillary Clinton, who put out a statement saying, “While Senator McCain’s proposals may be improvement on President Bush’s, that’s not saying much.” It’s been a good day for McCain: he’s distanced himself from President Bush, reminded voters how his opponent voted for the much-demonized Bush-Cheney energy bill, and had Clinton say he’s essentially a centrist.

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