Getting jobbed: Figures on 'green' employment don't add up

With one green energy project after another spiraling into bankruptcy - even with large infusions of taxpayer cash - fossil fuel opponents figure it's time for a full-court press.

In a Tuesday news release titled "The Assault on Clean Energy in Nevada," Bob Keefe of the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C., says "Nevada's clean economy now employs more than 17,000 workers, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics." Furthermore, "The state's clean energy sector is also adding jobs at a much faster rate than the state's overall economy."

Problem is, so anxious is the current administration to dress up this sow's ear that many of those "green jobs" result from simply giving existing workers an emerald paint coat.

Last October, the U.S. Labor Department's inspector general released a report which found "some of the positions that fall under the administration's definition of 'green jobs' include: forklift operator, sheet metal worker, welder, plumber, electrician, car mechanic and garbage handler."

Examining those findings last fall, Review-Journal columnist Glenn Cook noted, "If you do anything that could conceivably benefit the environment -- install a no-flush urinal or an energy-efficient appliance, drive a hybrid bus, collect used cooking oils, lobby against fossil fuels - you are a green-collar worker, as far as Washington is concerned. Those Republic Services workers who toss your recyclables into a diesel truck? Green jobs!"

Mr. Keefe claims, for example, that the 64-megawatt Nevada Solar One power plant near Boulder City created "800 construction jobs and 30 permanent operations jobs." In fact, the Nevada Policy Research Institute notes the plant in Boulder City got $10.8 million in tax subsidies per permanent employee. The number of permanent green jobs created, as reported by NPRI? Not 30. Five.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that as far out as 2016, solar power will still cost two to three times as much as coal, and up to five times the cost of electricity generated with natural gas. The Nevada Public Utilities Commission estimates solar power now costs NV Energy 6.9 to 13.495 cents per KWh. So why do they buy it? Because the state Legislature says they have to. Ratepayers and taxpayers foot the bill, while NV Energy's "cost-plus" profits and salaries move upward on a vast tide of unnecessary spending.

Nevada's state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation got $6 million from Washington to train 7,125 "green" workers, of which 5,238 were projected to retain employment. As of last fall, the department had spent $147,408 training 375 people. How many managed to hold a job? Four.

States taking part in the new fossil fuels boom, including Wyoming and the Dakotas, are indeed enjoying economic benefits. But pay no attention to the little man behind the curtain, pouring greenbacks down the "green subsidy" chute and nailing up the buy-it-or-else mandates.