Window Repair Jobs

Tyler Cowen links to a good article that gets at the fallacy that suddenly obsoleting our energy infrastructure and having to rebuild it will be of net economic benefit.

Optimistically treating European Commission partially funded data, we find that for every renewable energy job that the State manages to finance, Spain's experience cited by President Obama as a model reveals with high confidence, by two different methods, that the U.S. should expect a loss of at least 2.2 jobs on average, or about 9 jobs lost for every 4 created, to which we have to add those jobs that non-subsidized investments with the same resources would have created

Includes 1 million euros in government subsidies per wind job created.

In my mind, the green jobs mantra is a result of the CO2 abatement case becoming fatally weak, with supporters of legislation casting about for other justificaitons.  From the very beginning, many of the most passionate folks are on the AGW bandwagon not because they really understand the science, but because the theory provided justification for a range of government actions (reduced growth, limited technology, reduced energy use, reduction in global trade -- even vegetarianism) that they supported long before AGW made the news.

Update: A quick note on a theme I harp on a lot - nameplate capacity for wind and solar is really, really misleading.  In Spain in the study cited, wind operates at 19% of nameplate over the course of a year and solar operates at 8% (figure 3).  The actual CO2 reduction is even worse, because, particularly for wind, fossil-fuel fired turbines have to be spinning on hot backup for when wind suddenly dies.  Germany, the largest wind user in the word, found only 1,000MW of reduced fossil fuel plant needs from every 24,000 MW of wind capacity.


  1. Allen:

    It's incredibly hard to get certain people to understand that simply doing something does not lead to wealth. Productivity is Greek to them.

  2. Brad K.:

    Actually, the insight that sorta fixed my understanding of recycling/green/climate change, etc., was the observation that of all the history of government sponsored recycling - cans, bottles, plastic, aluminum - only glass is cost effective without government subsidy.

    Recycling plastic and aluminum, paper, and tin cans? Sure. It saves all those nasty tax dollars from being wasted on . . whatever they would have been spent on by the taxpayer.

  3. Charlie B:

    Doctor to patient: "Would you like to schedule your open heart surgery on a sunny day or a windy day?"

  4. Matt S.:


    You are wrong on one case, aluminum. Recycling aluminum is, or at least can be, cost effective. This must be the case because at least before government mandated recycling there were private recycling companies that would PAY people for aluminum cans.

  5. bryan:

    Didn't you guys here what obama said?
    "Now, there are those who are also going to suggest that moving towards a clean energy future is going to somehow harm the economy or lead to fewer jobs. And they're going to argue that we should do nothing, stand pat, do less, or delay action yet again... It's a debate between looking backwards and looking forward; between those who are ready to seize the future and those who are afraid of the future"

    Why are you so afraid of the future?
    Argue with those facts!

  6. L Nettles:

    The Superfreakonomics section on Global Warming is well written and worth reading.

  7. ElamBend:

    The support for the government supported 'green jobs' comes loudest from those at the head of the line at the trough.

  8. morganovich:


    were those private aluminum recyclers getting government money/tax benefits/subsidies/subsidized loans?

    did they benefit from some other coercive government involvement like requiring x% of aluminum content in products to be from recycled sources?

    while perhaps they were not and your point is correct, it can be dangerous to assume that just because private companies are doing something that it's economic.

    the possibility also exists that the initial aluminum recyclers were just wrong in their business plan projections and that the profit they anticipated failed to materialize.

    there are lots of private ethanol refiners despite that fact that they cannot operate profitably without subsidy/mandate.

  9. Matt S.:


    I very much doubt that the companies I was refering to were getting any government subsidies.

    1. These companies existed more than 30 years ago, before the government had any interest in recycling.

    2. Infact these companies have suffered from government mandated recycling. The flood of extra recycled aluminum on the market caused a drop in the prices. Before government recycling mandates they were paying some where between $1-$2 per pound. Afer government mandated recycling, the last time I went to a private recycler with alluminum cans (post government mandated recycling) the price I got was more like $0.25 per pound.

    3. Everything I have read on recycling, has said that recycling of metals in general is economical.

  10. steep:

    There's a great podcast on recycling over here:

  11. Dr. T:

    I recently visited Germany. Since the 1999 Kyoto accords, Germany made the most progress in decreasing use of fossil fuels: a bit over 2%. That's a piddling reduction, and the Germans are embarrassed. Most of the reduction was due to an economic decline, which now is reversing. The biggest coal mine company in Germany has an advertising campaign that stresses the need for burning coal for decades to come (because Germany won't emulate France and go nuclear). An aside: because of the earlier economic problems, the Germans reduced gasoline taxes. Gas was selling for the equivalent of $5 a gallon. (It used to be $7-8 per gallon.)

    I found the German CO2 situation amusing, because without any kind of government mandate, the country that made the most progress in decreasing fossil fuel usage per person was the USA. We did this just because individuals and businesses like to save money.

  12. Mesa Econoguy:

    The “buy local,” “fair trade,” “clean energy,” and other childish fashionable progressive themes are complete crap.

    The fundamental fallacy underlying all of these ridiculous “movements” is that prices are inaccurate informational signals (i.e. they do not take into account [fake] costs such as carbon externalities, etc.) and that economic resources are not effectively distributed by markets.

    If I only had time to write a book about this nonsense…

  13. Peter:

    Obamas subsidy won't be used in my home town for green building. They are not even waiting to apply for it. They want to put in a geothermal heating system for the new fire/ambulance station. For a mere $300,000 they are (pending the vote in november) going to get a heating/cooling system that can provide 245,000 btu of energy gained or removed. The architects/engineers have said that it will pay for itself in only six years compared to an equivalent fossil fuel system. The current heating budget for the two departments is $10,000 per year. Could somebody please explain to me how is going to pay for itself in 6 years because I must of missed the magic economics class in college. Could it be they have assumed a new price for heating oil based on the assumption that cap and trade passes. By the way I'm on Marthas Vineyard not exactly a hotbed for geothermal activity. I have yet to find out the amount of coal that will be burned to generate the electricity to run the pumps. Oh well maybe if I go to bed now I can wake up from this nightmare in the morning.

  14. Keith Hogan:

    Peter, if you Google "geothermal heat pump" you can find information about the type of system your fire station will use. (The Wikipedia article isn't too bad.) It is actually just a heat pump with the condenser/evaporator coils embedded several meters underground. Since the underground temperature stays a constant 50 deg F or so, the heat pump works much more efficiently in both summer and winter. This is a relatively widely used heating system, and can be a cost effective solution, particularly where natural gas distribution is lacking.

  15. Nobrainer:


    Your update is misleading. You have, indeed, made the same point repeatedly. You have made that point in error, repeatedly. I have left comments to correct you. Repeatedly.

    You completely mischaracterize the use of spinning reserves. You insinuate that spinning backup plants burn fuel at 100% even when they output at much lower levels. This is not the case. Not to mention that the grid requires significant spinning reserves regardless of the existence of wind.

    Plus you confuse output with capacity. Increased wind penetration will, as you note, barely reduce the capacity requirements of fossil generation, but it will reduce the capacity factor of that generation.

    - Nobrainer