Fmr Biden Adviser:
Green jobs oversold

April 5, 2012

A former top economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden admitted that the clean energy firms that have received billions of stimulus dollars will not create many long term jobs.

"I was very active in the implementation of the Recovery Act, and one thing we found about clean energy was that if you build a solar plant, you’re going to hire a lot of people," Jared Bernstein told the American Action Forum. "If you run a solar plant, it doesn’t take a ton of people to run some of these plants. ... So, some of these firms don’t employ as many people as you might hope."

Clean energy firms employ 4,700 people nationwide, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Within this industry, electricity generated from wind had the highest employment with 2,200 jobs, followed by biomass with 1,100 jobs, geothermal with 600 jobs, and solar with 400 jobs," BLS stated in a March jobs report.

The thousands of green energy jobs that President Barack Obama has widely touted after pumping billions into green energy firms rely mostly on short-term construction jobs.

Whereas oil platforms, natural gas refineries, coal mines, and logging companies often serve as the backbone for local economies, green energy jobs do not require a steady stream of fulltime workers to operate.

"They’re very—the labor saving technology around the actual production of clean energy is quite intense," Bernstein said.

Oil production employs about 60,000 people, according to a 2009 BLS report, while coal companies employed about 90,000 in 2010.

The president has touted clean energy as a major driver of the economic recovery, pointing to 2,200 jobs created by solar and advanced battery manufacturers in his 2010 State of the Union.

"To create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives," Obama said. "The nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy."

Many of those jobs have proven to be temporary bumps, as low demand for solar power and financial mismanagement have led several clean energy companies to declare bankruptcy, despite billions in taxpayer subsidies.

In the same speech, Obama advocated a climate bill that would "finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America."

One of the solutions touted by the administration is mandating the use of clean energy.

"A Clean Energy Standard (CES) would double the share of electricity from clean energy sources to 80 percent by 2035 from a wide variety of clean energy sources, including renewable energy sources like wind, solar, biomass, and hydropower; nuclear power; efficient natural gas; and coal with carbon capture utilization and sequestration," the White House website states.

In 2009, clean energy produced about 8 percent of U.S. electricity with another 9 percent derived from nuclear power.