The Folly of 'Green' Job Creation

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President Obama has proposed combining stimuli to promote employment with the fight against alleged man-made global warming, which supposedly results mainly from the burning of fossil fuels. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of new “green” jobs will supposedly be created by replacing power from fossil fuels with power from windmills and solar panels. They will be created in the construction of windmills, the production and installation of solar panels, and also in the construction of a new power grid meant to carry all the electricity that is supposed to result.

A rather serious problem, which seems largely to have been ignored by those urging a race to build windmills and solar panels, is the fact that the wind does not always blow, nor does the sun always shine. And as yet there is no large-scale economical method of storing electricity for later use. This would seem to imply a need to retain the present system of power production alongside the new system that is to be based on wind and sun, or else we must grow accustomed to protracted periods without power.

Or is it the case perhaps that this problem is to be taken as an opportunity for even greater gains in employment? This might be achieved if, in all those times when the wind does not blow or the sun does not shine, human beings are employed in rotating copper-clad generator shafts, in a manner similar to that of rotating a grindstone in a gristmill, only in the presence of surrounding magnets, so that electricity can be produced by the rotation. (I don’t know how much, if any, electricity might actually be produced in this way. But it would keep people employed in the attempt.)

Indeed, if we’re realistic, environmentalism is capable of creating a virtually limitless number of jobs. Big-rig trucks and their “polluting” emissions might be done away with by replacing them with human porters who would carry freight on their backs. Ocean-going ships and their emissions might be done away with by replacing their “dirty engines” with the clean labor of banks of oarsmen. (Sails would be a substitute too, but they are no match for oarsmen when it comes to the number of workers needed.) Automobiles and their emissions might be replaced by sedan chairs and teams of litter bearers.

And if all that is not enough, then think of the jobs that might be created in making coal in the ground absolutely safe. At present there are outcries over the release of trace amounts of mercury, arsenic, and other heavy metals from above-ground accumulations of coal sludge. Yet these metals are found in nature-given, below-ground deposits of coal as well, and could not appear in coal sludge if they had not first been present in below-ground coal. While perhaps a smaller threat to human health so long as they are locked in below-ground coal, they must undoubtedly represent some threat, if only at the level of parts per billion or parts per trillion.

Since one can never be too safe, it follows that if job creation is the goal, a green case can be made for extracting all known coal deposits and then, instead of using any of that coal for such environmentally “destructive” purposes as producing electricity or heating homes, simply reburying it. But this time in repositories lined so as to prevent any possible leakage of heavy metals into the surrounding environment.

And finally, think of all of the jobs that a program of environmental “stewardship” might make available. Thus each patch of desert, each rock formation, each clump of grass, and each tree stump, might have assigned to it one or more “stewards” whose job would be to watch over it, protect it, and “preserve it for future generations.” To carry out this valuable work, there could be a whole corps of “stewards.” They could be dressed in special uniforms displaying various ranks and medals, all gained in “service to the environment” and the defense of nature and its resources from the humans.

Indeed, once we put our minds to it, nothing is easier than to think of things that would require the performance of virtually unlimited labor in order to accomplish virtually zero result. Such is the nature of all job-creation programs. Such is the nature of environmentalism. Such is thought to be the path to economic recovery by most of today’s intellectual establishment.

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