"Green Jobs" Cost Taxpayers $1.63 Million Each-Good Deal Or Bad?

According to this article, the “stimulus program” for Solar Energy has yielded jobs:http://cnsnews.com/news/article/9-billion-stimulus-solar-wind-projects-made-910-final-jobs-98-million-job....but at a rather high cost.
Is this a good deal for taxpayers? I suspect that the high cost will mean that these projects will prove to be uneconomic, and most of the money spent (solar panels) went to Chinese suppliers.
Can we conclude that such “stimulus” is not a good way to provide employment?
Or, is it worth taking on such enormous debts, in the hope that such projects (eventually) might become worthwhile? The recent scandals (Solyndra, Evergreen) suggest otherwise.
My opinion is that these expenditures were not worth the money spent-there wold have been better ways to spend the money (like repairing the crumbling interstate highway system).

Working Link: HERE

Might I suggest a rewording of the thread title to “Each Green Job” Costs Taxpayers $1.63 Million…"

Is there any other source for this than CNS “news”?

And now that I’ve read the article…

You fool! They’re using an old JEDI computer model on you!

Ahem…

Shouldn’t this money be considered as a capital investment and its return measured in the (hopefully) many years of wind and solar farm operation rather than in the first year of its workers’ coffee breaks?

Is it just in manufacturing, or R&D? The latter is well spent while the former is debatable.

Huh? I thought the issue was creating green power, not jobs. The projects they are looking at are photovoltaic and wind installations, not manufacturing. When you build a highway, no one considers it a good thing if it takes lots of jobs to maintain it. The article points out that there were lots of initial construction jobs (good for a stimulus program, I guess, and which the article ignored in their calculations) and then a vastly reduced number of direct and indirect jobs for maintaining the projects. Isn’t that what you want in an infrastructure project?

Yeah, it’s kind of silly to say that the $9 billion resulted in 5,510, thus it cost $1.63 million/job. Bit (ok, more than a bit) disingenuous there. Not all of the money went strictly toward jobs, after all. Also:

So, you have a lot more temporary, construction type jobs than permanent jobs. None of these were factored in the ridiculous $9 billion divided by 5510 calculation. Personally, I think there is a lot you could criticize in stimulus stuff like this (it’s debatable), but this is a dishonest way to do it.

-XT

On top of the ridiculousness pointed out by XT, note that the permanent jobs are ongoing over the 20- to 30-year life of the systems. So at $1.63 million per job over 30 years that’s about $54k a year. I’d have to think that’s actually less than what these jobs pay, but even if not that’ means we pay these folks a salary for 30 years and we get some nice renewable energy infrastructure for free.

So for $9 billion we got something like 52 to 75 thousand temporary jobs (9,000 of which were directly on these projects), over 5,000 permanent jobs (which even if all $9 billion went to that is only $54k per year per job), and some capital investment in renewable energy. I was never the biggest fan of this part of the stimulus, but this thread is actually making it look pretty good.

I should perhaps add that Congress tried to pass a large federal transportation bill earlier this year but the GOP couldn’t get something reasonable out of the House. So instead we just got a stopgap bill.

Ok, so how efficient are these jobs, long term? If say, 75% of the actual job costing is the initial cost (purchase, set up etc)

And to comment on jackdavinci’s posting about R&D, are we now paying the Chinese to not only manufacture them but to research the technology as well?

:confused: Where do you get from his post that ‘we’ (presumably the US government) is paying the Chinese to manufacture or develop this technology? I mean, sure, ‘we’ (private US energy companies and the like) buy solar and wind powered products FROM Chinese companies, but that’s not the same thing.

-XT

“How efficient are these jobs”? What does that even mean?

An incredibly dishonest summary of the report by the media organization linked in the OP. Well, either dishonest or written by someone incredibly stupid.

At least the CNS story does provide a link to the report itself, so that people who are interested in the facts can work out what the story is.

The first thing to note is that, in estimating the total number of jobs produced by these projects, the report does not use the figure of $9.8 billion, because that was only the money provided through the §1603 Treasury Grant Program. The Report notes that:

This $30 billion figure is the one they have used in the model. Of course, this makes the whole thing sound even more expensive than the doom-and-gloom scenario described by CNS and the OP, but again, anyone who reads and understands the actual report will realize that CNS completely misrepresented its conclusions.

The CNS article, as noted by XT, did include some of the other details from the report, but failed to appreciate their significance. Here’s some of the important stuff from the conclusion of the report:

My emphasis.

So, if we take the $30 billion invested so far, that money has already created 150,000 to 220,000 gross job-years, meaning that each job-year created has cost $140,000-$200,000 (the 5-7 job-years per million dollars, described in the quote above).

Now, some might argue that spending a whole bunch of money on jobs that pay $140,000-200,000 a year might not be the best use of funds, but remember that the program created all those jobs for three years before we even consider the jobs that CNS used as the basis for its calculations. CNS also conveniently neglected to mention the economic output discussed in the report.

Next, we can consider the long-term jobs. From the report:

All this is, as others have noted, and as the report makes clear, in addition to the three years of jobs created during the planning and construction phase of the project. And none of this job-creation discussion even takes into account all the actual stuff (i.e., power generation) that was created by the project. It was never designed merely as a job creation project, as CNS’s asinine analysis seems to imply. Funny how, in an article about a project designed to fund new sources of energy, they manage to focus only on a specific subset of jobs created by the project, and completely ignore the actual product of all that labor.

To be fair, the report does note that its conclusions relate to gross jobs created. It makes clear that it is not calculating the number of net jobs created, because it makes no effort to calculate how many jobs might have been lost, or not created, in other sectors or on other projects as a result of this project. The authors also note that they have not attempted to quantify how many of these alternative energy projects might have gone ahead anyway, even in the absence of the §1603 Treasury Grant Program.

Apart from his willingness to simply swallow the CNS story whole, the OP also, unsurprisingly, manages to get things wrong as well. He describes the project as a “‘stimulus program’ for Solar Energy,” yet the report notes that the majority of §1603 funds, and the majority of total investment, actually went into large wind energy projects. Of the $9.8 billion in §1603 funds, $7.7 billion went to large wind.

The OP also makes the same mistake as CNS when he argues that projects like this are “not a good way to provide employment.” As noted above, and by others in this thread, this project was not funded merely as a job-creation exercise. We didn’t spend $9.8 billion to pay people for doing nothing. We actually get something out of all these projects; not just tangible facilities for creating power, but a shift in the direction of more responsible, environmentally friendly power generation. The fact that the OP completely misses this issue tells us quite a lot about his perspicacity and analytical abilities.

The nation’s crumbling infrastructure is indeed an important issue, and as XT notes, there are some reasonable arguments to be made against projects like the §1603 Treasury Grant Program, but i fear that the OP hasn’t shown himself capable of understanding these issues, let alone entering into an in-depth debate on the matter.

In defense of the skeptics, you are not accounting for any of the other long term costs like: regular maintenance of the systems by very skilled and expensively trained personnel, insurance of the structures, or loss of the land to other enterprises like farming (to name a few).

You could argue that you’ve created other jobs by virtue of the other necessary services but you also create the need for additional funding that has to come from somewhere.

But again, the things you’ve created aren’t just large useless statues.

They’re things like wind turbines, which produce electricity, which gets sold to customers. It’s not like the ongoing costs of these enterprises are simply funded out of nowhere; the very enterprises themselves can, once they are up and running, create energy that can be sold, and the money that comes in can then be used to support things like maintenance and insurance.

Thanks for the useful information–that I deleted! Sourcewatch has this information on CNS:

Of course, the attached comments make CNS’s audience quite clear…

One could make the same argument over red-meat favorites like defense projects, NASA, Homeland Security, farm subsidies, etc.

The building I work in cost $6 million and employs 30 people, so it “costs” $200,000 per job. Oddly, if we double the number of employees, the cost would be cut in half. Heck, if we hired 6 million people, each job would only cost $1. I gotta go make a proposal to the boss.

It sounds like that article was written by an idiot.

The author is performing a back of the napkin cost/benefit analysis where the “benefit” is actually another project cost (eg labor costs).

The benefit is actually the total MWattage of clean energy produced over the lifetime of the projects.

The costs are all the labor, multi million dollar wind turbines and other expenses incurred in setting them up.

The actual question to be asked is if the costs of these green energy projects is more or less than the costs of creating an equivalent amount of MWts using fossil fuels (factoring pollution and other externalities).

But that’s a lot of thinkin’ math for what I assume is a right-wing blog.
If we just measured projects by the number of jobs they created, we’d just pay people to dig holes and fill them up again.