President Obama is preparing to unleash a Colorado-River-sized torrent of stupid. He wants to spend tens of billions of dollars on goofy green energy projects that will have an indiscernible affect on world temperatures but will have a very robust effect on some crony bottom lines. Here is one example:
As part of President Obama’s plans to combat climate change, the White House announced a program on Friday for the U.S. Department of Energy to train 75,000 people to work in the solar power industry by 2020, many of whom will be part of a military veterans jobs initiative called Solar Ready Vets.
Seriously, is the training costs of workers really a substantial portion of a solar installation?
Andrea Luecke, president and executive director of the Solar Foundation, which publishes the annual National Solar Jobs Census, said that Obama’s announcement will not likely increase the size of the solar industry’s workforce but will instead ensure that the industry will be able to find highly skilled workers to fill jobs.
“We’re experiencing difficulty finding more skilled and qualified workers to install and do design work required,” she said, adding that the industry’s workforce has a “skills gap” as well-trained electricians and other workers go back to other construction jobs as the economy gains momentum.
I will translate that trade-group speak for you: We like to pay our workers less than similarly-skilled construction workers so we lose a lot of skilled workers to higher paying construction companies. This program will not add any net employment to the economy but will help us keep wages lower by increasing the supply of qualified workers.
I can't help but think of Henry Ford, who famously raised the wages of his employees substantially. The fake story is that he did this so all his workers could buy his product. The real reason he did this was that he had horrendous labor turnover problems. Like the solar industry, he was training folks who then left for higher paying jobs. So he had to raise his wages to retain trained people. How history would have changed if Ford had instead been able to call Obama and ask him to have the taxpayer pay to feed him with new, trained workers so he wouldn't have to raise his wage rates!
Seriously, did a bunch of technocrats get together and study the whole solar industry and come to the conclusion that solar installation skills were the keystone problem that was holding back the whole industry? Of course not. The solar industry will sink or swim based on panel costs and efficiencies. What happened is someone said, "well the public always seems to like job training programs. Those poll well." And then they called the solar crony association or whatever it is called and they said, "sure, we would love to have taxpayers pay some of our training costs. Thanks, we will be very supportive." And then someone said, "well, won't the Republicans pitch a fit over this?" And then someone had the brilliant idea of making it a veterans program -- "Republicans love soldiers, that will help defuze their opposition." And an expensive crony giveaway was born.
About 5 years ago I said I would be willing to accept a carbon tax whose proceeds were used to reduce various labor tax rates (e.g. social security). Substituting an energy consumption tax for a labor consumption tax was probably at least neutral and maybe even a net positive.
Now, I want to come back to that idea. I don't believe any more than I did then that CO2-driven global warming will be catastrophic. In fact, I am more confident than ever that while CO2-induced warming is a reality, the sensitivity of temperatures to CO2 levels is relatively low. But please, I am willing to fully support a carbon tax that offsets some other existing tax if only we will stop all this stupid crony useless green energy stuff. At least with a carbon tax, the markets will reduce fossil fuel use in the most efficient ways possible. As opposed to programs like this one that will reduce fossil fuel use not at all but will cost a lot of money.