President Obama is committed to pursuing a “[renewable-energy] strategy that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs” (January 24, 2012). He highlighted the job point during the October 16 presidential debate: “I expect those new energy sources to be built right here in the United States. That’s going to help [young graduates] get a job.”
Green may be good, but this week’s Geo-Graphic shows that the jobs come at a hefty cost.
The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that energy-related tax preferences will cost Americans $5.4 billion this year. Half of this, $2.7 billion, will benefit green sectors: $1 billion in nuclear subsidies, $1.3 billion in wind-energy credits for electricity production, and $400 million in solar-energy property credits.
So-called “section 1603” renewable energy grants, part of the 2009 fiscal stimulus package, will cost taxpayers a further $5.8 billion. If we assume that the grants are awarded across sectors in the last five months of this year as they were in the first seven, then the nuclear, solar, and wind energy sectors will receive $4 billion of this, boosting total green-sector subsidies to $6.7 billion this year.
Taxpayers will also provide $700 million in energy-efficient property credits. The credits apply mainly to solar, though we don’t know the precise allocation – so we leave it out of the figure, which therefore understates the cost of solar-backed jobs.
Dividing the total wind, solar, and nuclear subsidies by the number of Americans employed in these sectors (252,000), they are currently generating jobs at an average annual cost to taxpayers of over $29,000. Wind jobs cost taxpayers nearly $47,000 per job per year.
By way of comparison, the coal, oil, and gas sectors receive $2.7 billion in subsidies annually, and employ about 1.4 million Americans. The taxpayer-cost per job in these sectors is therefore just over $1,900.
The bottom line is that green-energy jobs cost taxpayers, on average, 15 times more than oil, gas, and coal jobs. Wind-backed jobs cost 25 times more.
Given the current state of energy-production technology, green jobs don’t come cheap.
Romil Chouhan contributed to this post.
NYTimes.com: Transcript of the Second Presidential Debate
Treasury: Overview and Status Update of the Section 1603 Program
Bloomberg.com: U.S. Solar Jobs Face Bright Future, Wind Posts Flutter
Foreign Affairs: Tough Love for Renewable Energy