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Academics and researchers from four U.S. universities have released a joint study, “Seven Myths About Green Jobs,” that analyzes the assumptions, findings and methodologies of green jobs projections and benefits put forth in reports issued by several special interest groups, industry associations and international organizations which have subsequently been widely referenced by government officials, policymakers and the media.
While acknowledging the importance of energy conservation and ongoing research and investment into new technologies, the authors set out to evaluate the fundamental soundness of green job claims. In aggregate, the academic team's study concludes that a lack of sound research methods, erroneous economic assumptions and technological omissions have routinely been utilized to lend support, rather than provide legitimate analysis, to major public policies and government spending initiatives. Furthermore, the reports that were reviewed have been issued without the benefit of peer-reviewed analysis or transparency of their models and calculations. Reports analyzed by the academic team include those from the following organizations:
- The American Solar Energy Society (ASES)
- The Center for American Progress
- The U.S. Conference of Mayors
- The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP)
"When the claim of hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of green jobs are used as the basis for billions in new government spending, we ought to insist that those claims be backed by transparent documentation and sound methodology, not implausible assumptions and inconsistent definitions," said Professor Andrew Morriss, H. Ross & Helen Workman Professor of Law and Business and Professor at the University of Illinois' Institute for Government and Public Affairs.
Key findings of the study show that no definition for green jobs exists causing great discrepancy in how numbers are counted; that green job estimates often include huge numbers of clerical, bureaucratic and administrative positions that do not produce goods or services for consumption; and that problematic assumptions are made about economic predictions, prices and technology advancements leading some to ultimately favor mandates over free market realities. These serious flaws, as well as the failure to include technical data, render the prevailing green job estimates virtually unreliable.
Dr. Roger Meiners, Goolsby Distinguished Professor of Economic and Law at the University of Texas-Arlington and a study co-author said, "It is not our intention to debate the energy proposals these jobs estimates seek to justify. We simply believe that if the government is going to establish a new policy paradigm and spend huge sums of money to do so, it should be based on verifiable data and peer-reviewed research."
Much of the study examines the methodology used by various special interest groups to calculate how many green jobs new energy policies would create. Starting with simple fundamentals, these studies do not define new job creation in an economically sound manner failing to account for employment productivity or efficient use of labor. These basic flaws make comparison of job claims almost impossible and thus fail to create a statistical consensus.
"Economic analysis is not a matter of justifying policy goals by making optimistic assumptions and ignoring those realities that fail to support your objectives," said Dr. William Bogart, Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Economics at York College of Pennsylvania, another study author. "Our work here clearly shows that the foundations of these "green" jobs claims do not measure up to the kind of research standards we should demand when evaluating change in direction for our economy."
The study notes that one of the major flaws in existing research is its failure to acknowledge that mandating a move to new "green" sectors of the economy and away from fossil fuel-based sectors will shift jobs rather than create new jobs and thus overall economic growth.
"Job creation is a common argument for government subsidies of many projects around the world, including proponents of green jobs. The proper measure is not total jobs that exist in an area receiving a subsidy but additional net new employment-jobs that would not otherwise have existed," said study co-author Andrew Dorchak, Foreign and International Law Specialist at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.
The study concludes that significant opportunities abound to develop new energy sources, new industries, and new eco-friendly jobs in the future but that a market-based process will do a far better job than could a series of government mandates based on flawed data.