Green Jobs Called A Myth By Think Tank

Pointing to the experience of European countries, where it says a focus on renewable energy brought “job loss, higher energy prices and corruption,” a conservative think tank is arguing that the Obama administration’s strategy of investing in green energy and technology is doomed to failure.

In “The Myth of Green Jobs: The European Experience,” the American Enterprise Institute’s Kenneth P. Green – yes, Green – analyzes “four European countries that went hog wild for renewables, while singing the praises of green jobs: Spain, Italy, Germany and Denmark.” The thrust of his argument is that while investment in renewables might directly create some jobs, these “subsidized jobs ‘created’ are, by definition, less efficient uses of capital than market-created jobs.”

green jobs myth, American Enterprise Institute

image via SolarWorld

Take the case of Italy. Green points to research from the libertarian Bruno Leoni Institute that found money invested in renewable energy would have created 6.9 times as many jobs had private industry invested the money into the larger energy sector, or 4.8 times as many jobs had the money gone into the economy in general.

Green uses Germany as an example of how investment in renewables can result in higher energy prices. He cites research that shows “the implementation of wind and solar power raised household energy rates by 7.5 percent.” The German policies did lead to abatement in greenhouse-gas emissions, he says, but “the cost was astonishingly high: over $1,000 per ton for solar power, and over $80 per ton for wind power.” This at a time in which the carbon price in the European Trading System was about $19 per ton at the time, he says.

[Editor’s Note: Why is a story like this on EarthTechling, which seems so pro-clean tech everything? We believe in providing a place for different viewpoints to be represented. The bottom line is that we think green innovation is important for the public and private sectors, but we don’t mind reporting that others think differently.]

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.


  • Reply February 25, 2011

    Bill M

    American Enterprise Institute is a conservative organization that fronts for, among others, the tobacco and fossil fuels industries and promotes climate change denial. Its board of trustees includes Dick Cheney.

    • Reply February 25, 2011

      Nino Marchetti

      It is good to point that out. Thanks for the mention.

  • Reply February 25, 2011

    Kenneth Green

    Editor – Thank you for the coverage of my latest study – I applaud your open-mindedness, and the exposure as well.

    To Bill M: First, neither I, nor anyone I know at AEI denies the reality of the greenhouse effect or greenhouse gas induced climate change. Personally, I believe it’s real, but likely to be at the lower end of the potential range of warming values. I base that on having read the IPCC reports (I was an expert reviewer for 2 of them), as well as the ongoing stream of climate publications. And, yes, I can understand them: my doctorate is in environmental science and engineering. What I am skeptical of is using simplistic, assumption laden, untestable computer predictions as a basis for re-ordering our civilization. If you didn’t notice, economic models that have far more fine-grained data than climate models completely failed to predict the economic collapse of 2008. You think that we can model the climate better than the economy? I disagree.

    With regard to the green jobs study, if you wish to critique my study, I welcome it, and welcome you to check out the underlying research as well. I doubt you will, since I find that the people who invoke the whole “guilt by association,” thing are intellectually lazy.

    • Reply February 25, 2011

      Nino Marchetti

      As I said above, we invite most viewpoints on green innovation. We may not agree with what others always have to say, but we want this to be an open discussion around the cleantech topic. This is, of course, as long as discussion is polite.

  • Reply February 25, 2011

    Paul C

    The data that I have seen is 75% of a solar installation is paid out in salaries to tax paying jobs, so if government incentives cover 50 to 70% of the costs, well I would encourage you to watch this video from “The Daily Show” Quoting the last 30 years of US Presidents speaking on the US energy crisis.

    We need to satisfy our desire for energy, and how cost effective or environmentally friendly is building new power plants?

  • Reply February 25, 2011


    Sometimes, money isnt everything. Sure, it might not be the cheapest direction to go in energy, but neither were cars when the mainstream was horse and buggys. If you end up saving money but you (or your race) dies earlier… to me… it wasn’t worth it. Gas prices are gonna skyrocket… food prices are gonna skyrocket (because we rely on gas). However, eventually it WILL pay off. Maybe not in our lifetime, but it definitely will. Were totally changing the way that we’ve done things for a century because we’re now smart enough to realize that there’s a better way. I didn’t say CHEAPER way. BETTER way. I don’t have a degree or political title, however I am able to know that the direction we are starting to point in is better than the direction we were going before.

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