Economist: Green energy will not be real US job creator

Matthew Cavanaugh for The New York Times -- An assembly worker at Evergreen Solar’s plant in Devens, Mass.

Matthew Cavanaugh for The New York Times -- An assembly worker at Evergreen Solar’s plant in Mass.

By Amy McCullough

From an editorial in the New York Times by Harvard economics professor Edward L. Glaeser on why green energy manufacturing will never be a real job creator in the United States:

“Evergreen Solar announced last week that it was closing its plant in Devens, Mass., laying off 800 workers, and moving production to China.

Evergreen’s factory had received more than $40 million in subsidies, which led many to see the plant closing as lesson in the futility of green energy and industrial policy. But what does Evergreen’s story really teach us about solar energy, public subsidies and the future of American manufacturing?…

Conservative critics, including Michelle Malkin, argue that the Devens closing provides a warning about green energy: “The myth that ‘green jobs’ are a boon to the economy keeps getting pierced by failed green jobs boondoggle after failed green jobs boondoggle.” But it was always a mistake to think that clean energy was going to be a jobs bonanza, and we should be investing in green technology whether or not it produces jobs.

America has had many high-tech breakthroughs over the last half-century, but those innovations rarely provided abundant employment for the less educated workers who need jobs most. The Devens closing reminds us that even when ideas are “made in America,” production is almost always cheaper in China. …

It’s easy to see why any governor would be excited about a green-energy manufacturing plant in a less prosperous area of his or her state. But the same forces that made Devens political catnip meant that it was unlikely to be a long-term success. …

We should continue financing research on solar technology as long as that research continues to produce cost-cutting breakthroughs, like “string ribbon” technology, but we shouldn’t pretend that cheaper solar energy will end up employing millions of our less-skilled citizens. For decades, local economic success has come from entrepreneurship and education, not large-scale manufacturing.”

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7 Responses to “Economist: Green energy will not be real US job creator”

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  4. Herbert N Says:

    Keyword (not mentioned in article title) is “manufacturing”, but what about the tens/hundreds of thousands of jobs required to sell, install and maintain renewable energy? Energy is a $1.2 Trillion/year domestic market. Manufacturing is only a thin slice of the total economic picture. If we don’t make smart investments, countries like China will eat our lunch in the coming decades when the price of oil hits >$125/barrel and we’re still stuck with a 20th century energy infrastructure.

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