I was reading the Washington Employment Security Department’s report on how many “green” jobs there are in our state (the Department says 47,000), but the definition they use is so vague and open ended that you can’t tell what makes a job “green.” On page five, however, I did find this nugget:
“Although employers identified many different occupational titles, there were no new or unique job titles identified by employers that were not already reflected in the existing national Standard Occupation Code classification system. This suggests...that the fundamental work performed by employees in these green jobs has not changed substantially such that employers believe that new occupational titles are necessary.”
In other words, most if not all of the 47,000 jobs listed in the report are existing occupations that the government has decided to label “green,” even though the employees are doing exactly the same work they did before. Here some examples of what the report calls “green” jobs:
- Millworkers - Earth drillers (but not for oil and gas) - Electricians - Roofers - Food Batchmakers
So, yesterday I was doing policy research on the state budget, and today I’m reading a government report on environmental policy. Does that mean that yesterday I did not have a “green” job and today I do?
“In 2007, when we adopted a set of climate change goals related to reduced greenhouse gas emissions and reduced fuel use, we also set a goal to triple the number of green jobs we had in the state – to reach 25,000 green jobs by 2020. Less than two years later, we can point to 47,000 green jobs right now. Our green jobs are growing much faster than predicted.”
Did Washington State actually create 47,000 “green” jobs in little more than two years? Washington State Employment Security Department’s (ESD) report, “2008 Washington State Green Economy Jobs,” helps to answer this question. The report states:
“…there were no new or unique job titles identified by employers that were not already reflected in the existing national Standard Occupation Code (SOC) classification system… the fundamental work performed by employees in these green jobs has not changed substantially such that employers believe that new occupational titles are necessary.”
The acknowledgement that “green” jobs are not necessarily new is a departure from the Governor’s previous comments where she has clearly claimed that the State has “created” 47,000 new “green” jobs.
The Governor’s remarks today also support the findings of the ESD report. The Governor testified that:
“We learned green jobs are not necessarily some brand new type of job – they are often jobs we all know, only now they include new skills to meet the needs of the new century – for example, the electrician who can wire a smart home.”
While the state is actively pursuing “green” jobs it appears to have taken more of a hand off approach towards traditional jobs. In fact, when asked by media about Boeing’s potential movement of operations to South Carolina and out of Washington, the Governor stated that issue is between Boeing and the Unions. But according to the ESD report and Gregoire’s testimony, aren’t many of Boeing’s jobs “green” and worth saving?
“Winston Churchill aroused this nation in heroic fashion to save civilisation in World War II. We have everything we need except political will but political will is a renewable resource.”
“The only way politicians will act is if awareness raises to a level to make them feel that it’s a necessity.”
Meanwhile, back on this side of the pond, the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee held the first of what is expected to be many hearings on a national cap-and-trade system. However, the Wall Street Journal reports that, “the political climate for the cap-and-trade system remains tough in the Senate,” despite the Democrat’s 60-seat majority. The Journal wrote, “The cap-and-trade system makes even some Democrats nervous, especially those from states that extract energy and minerals and rely on heavy industry.”
The challenges in the Senate have the makings of a triumphant return for Gore to his old stomping grounds, where once again he may call up on the words of Churchill, with his own global warming twist.
Perhaps Gore will say:
“Even though large tracts of Congress and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of their constituents and all the odious apparatus of those opposed to Cap and Trade, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, and we shall cap them at their businesses, we shall cap them at their schools, we shall cap them at their churches, we shall cap them at their homes - we shall never stop capping until in God's good time, the global warming prophets, with all their power and might, step forth to the rescue and liberation of the Earth from its pesky human inhabitants.”
Despite Gore’s push for climate action, recent polling shows that a majority of Americans don’t want to pay to fight climate change. In fact, some small businesses have even take exception to Congresses move toward a national cap-and-trade system.
In his latest writings, syndicated Op-Ed Columnist Paul Krugman takes aim at more than two-hundred members of Congress for their no vote on federal legislation promoting a national cap-and-trade policy. Krugman opines:
“…most rejected the bill because they rejected the whole notion that we have to do something about greenhouse gases. And as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason – treason against the planet."
Krugamn’s accusation of planetary treason, though laughable, shows how far alarmists are willing to go in order to pervert the global warming debate.
The assignment of treason attempts to delegitimize all other positions within the climate debate, except the position which Krugman himself holds as an alarmist. Krugman believes, “we’re facing a clear and present danger to our way of life, perhaps even to civilization itself.” His message: Anyone who disagrees with me is a traitor.
So, if members of Congress are guilty of treason, what does Krugman have to say about the 56% of Americans who, according to the latest Rasmussen poll, don’t want to pay for the costs to fight climate change or the 63% of people who believe creating jobs is more important that fighting global warming?
The extreme position taken by Paul Krugman makes me believe that he is the only one losing his head!
Part two takes a closer look at the scientific divergences within the Governor’s letter.
Claim: “We’ve already lost 20% of our snow pack over the last 30 years.”
Response: It is unclear where this number comes from, but it is at odds with the most recent study being released by atmospheric scientists at the UW. Mark Stoelinga, the study’s lead author, and a professor in the UW’s Atmospheric Sciences Department told TheSeattle Times last year that, “We can’t see the global-warming signature in terms of a decline in snowpack.” This doesn’t mean that rising temperature may not affect snowpack in the future, but if supporters of cap-and-trade need to distort the science, it raises questions about the policy justification.
Claim: “In my first four years as Governor, I made more emergency declarations than ever in the history of the state. Within 13 months, we suffered through two 100-year floods. In the summers, we are enduring more droughts and devastating wildfires.”
Response: This claim is repeated frequently in Washington, citing recent storms as evidence of climate change. But this is completely unscientific in the same way that citing our two years of record snowpack “disproves” climate change. UW atmospheric scientist Cliff Mass addressed this earlier this year. He wrote: “How many times have you heard that severe windstorms and heavy rains will increase in the Northwest under global climate change? The truth is, there is no strong evidence for these claims and the whole matter is being actively researched. Some portions of the Northwest have had more rain and wind during the past decades, some less.”
Claim: “Rising sea levels threaten nearly 40 communities – including several of Washington’s largest cities – along our 2,300 miles of shoreline.”
Response: While many numbers for sea level rise are thrown around, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the UW both agree that the most likely scenario is about 14 inches. The numbers cited by the Governor likely refer to projections of 2 feet or more which are called “unlikely” by scientists.
This week Governor Gregoire wrote a letter to members of the Washington State Congressional Delegation asking them support pending federal legislation that would establish a cap-and-trade system across the United States. In her letter she writes:
“The United States cannot afford to wait any longer to take comprehensive action to break our dependence on foreign oil while at the same time seizing the opportunity to develop 21st Century energy technologies, create jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and arrest global warming.
In the letter, the Governor offers up “examples” and “evidence” for why these policies are necessary. However, our research and analysis of the cap-and-trade system proposed in the state of Washington and that system’s experience in Europe, demonstrates that many of the claims and arguments that the Governor provides are misleading or not based in the consensus science.
Below are highlights from areas of the Governor’s letter that diverge from accepted experience and are at odds with environmental economics. In a separate blog posting we will review the scientific divergences made by the Governor.
Claim: “During my time as Governor, I have taken many actions to position our state to be a leader in the new clean energy economy…energy efficiency standards for buildings.”
Claim: “Our state’s $21 billion in annual energy expenditures, much of which currently leaves the state, justifies targeted public-sector investment in energy.”
Response: This is a strange claim for the Governor of “the most trade dependent state in the nation.” Imagine if the rest of the world took this attitude to justify refusing to buy Washington products like Boeing airplanes, Washington wine and apples, or Microsoft software.
Following this policy would harm the people of Washington, creating fewer jobs, make us poorer and hurt the environment.
Focusing on what we do best, we create more jobs and more prosperity because productivity is increased. Buying energy, whether it is oil or windmills, from others who produce those cheaply, saves money for Washington consumers, allowing us to invest in other industries and jobs.
“Targeted” investments in biofuels and other politically- selected technologies have a poor track record and justifying them with bad economics compounds that problem.
Claim: “We naively set a goal in 2007 of 25,000 green collar jobs by 2020. Today, with our robust community and technical college system with programs specifically designed to support more green jobs, we already have more than 47,000.”
Response: The Governor’s use of the word “naively” is interesting. Naïve implies that the state went about setting their goals without adequate knowledge or understanding of what a “green collar” job is or how they could be created. Given that naivete, we should wonder if credit is actually due here.
Additionally, these jobs are more theoretical than real. During the time Washington met and surpassed that “naïve” target, our unemployment rate has nearly doubled. When the Governor signed the “green jobs” Executive Order in February of 2007, the unemployment rate was 4.8 percent, identical to the US rate. After the creation of 39,000 “green” jobs (there were 8,000 in 2007), the unemployment rate has reached 9.2 percent, 0.1 percent higher than the national average.
Claim: “Economists concluded that Washington’s families, businesses and communities are likely to incur billions of dollars of annual economic costs if we fail to drive reductions in climate-changing greenhouse gas pollution. Increased public health expenses alone could account for $1.3 billion a year.”
Response: The Governor references a study released by the University of Oregon. Those numbers are debatable and they ignore the costs of the policy. Washington Policy Center, in partnership with Beacon Hill Institute, provided an economic analysis of the Western Climate Initiative’s cap-and-trade proposal. The key findings of that report found that Washington State could lose: “18,292 net jobs, $5.71 billion in personal income and $302.54 in per capita disposable income” by 2020, with costs continuing to rise after that. If we ignore the costs of the policy we are likely to adopt a cure that is worse than the disease.
Claim: “The final bill must fairly allocate allowances to Washington’s hydroelectric utilities – recognition of our important hydropower base has been a basic tenet of mine for any cap-and-trade program.”
Response: This paragraph is full of irony. First, the Governor has opposed counting hydropower as “renewable” under state law, but now asks Congress to do exactly that.
Second, the Governor has repeatedly argued that Washington needs to be a leader in reducing CO2 to set the tone for federal policy. Now, however, federal policy is giving the bulk of free permits to emit CO2 to states with historically high emissions. States, like Washington, that showed “leadership” and reduced their emissions will be punished under the new system. Washington led, but nobody followed.
In a blast from our childhood, one global warming alarmist appears to be channeling Cobra’s (GI Joe nemesis) effort to manipulate the planet’s weather.
Jamais Cascio, a futurist and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, is calling for the use of geoengineering, a radical step that he says is necessary to “avoid climate disaster.”
“If we want to avoid an unprecedented global catastrophe, we may have no other choice but to reduce the impact of global warming, alongside focusing on the factors that are causing it in the first place. That is, while we continue to work aggressively to reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere, we also need to consider lowering the temperature of the Earth itself.”
Of the geoengineering options being considered to help reduce the Earth’s temperature, Cascio prefers two methods that look promising. They are:
“injecting tons of sulfates—essentially solid particles of sulfur dioxide—into the stratosphere, and pumping seawater into the lower atmosphere to create clouds.”
News this morning from Australia reports that Australian Federal Police Agents will be required to investigate climate crimes in addition to their regular and more common duties that include, “investigating terrorist threats, drug syndicates, people trafficking, fraud and threats against children."
“Interpol has warned the carbon market will be irresistible to criminal gangs because of the vast amounts of cash to be made. Possible rorts include under-reporting of carbon emissions by firms and bogus carbon offset schemes.”
“Washington and a number of other states are setting up a system that creates an incentive for both the buyer and seller to keep quiet when the buyer doesn’t get what he paid for.
The cap-and-trade system Washington is helping develop as part of a regional effort would require companies that emit greenhouse gases to purchase carbon allocations from the government, or “offsets” offered by others, to bring them into compliance with the law, or pay a fine. The problem is that if the projects that create these offsets don’t protect the environment as promised, both buyer and seller are better off if nobody realizes it. Both have an incentive to collude, keeping the failure of the program a secret.
Such incentives to cheat demonstrate why a regional cap-and-trade system that allows carbon offsets is more likely to have increased enforcement costs, while failing to effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
According to a report by Emily Heffter of the Seattle Times, the City of Seattle is removing garbage cans from city parks as part of a cost cutting effort, but also hopes that this move “will morph into an all-out culture shift.” Although the “culture shift” is not spelled out in so many words, one can easily derive that the “culture shift” hoped for by the City is a move to more recycling.
In the Times report the City claims that, “the parks department planned to save about $160,000 by removing 400 more (garbage cans) — some from well-used parks.” Yet, even as the garbage cans are being removed, the City announced plans to move forward with efforts to install recycling bins throughout the City. Heffter reports that the City “put 120 recycling containers at parks…late last year”, and that, “workers now are spreading the containers across the rest of the city.”
But according to a 2007 Seattle Times article, the recycling program comes with its own high costs and may not have that much environmental benefit.
Late in 2007, the City of Seattle announced its plans to begin a recycling pilot program to increase recycling availability at City parks. At that time, the pilot program was estimated to cost Seattleites some $200,000 for start up costs, with an additional cost estimate of $130,000 annually to maintain the pilot program sites, which would cover 106 recycle bins in City parks.
Responding to the cost for operating the recycling program in 2007, Tim Croll, Solid-Waste Director for Seattle Public Utilities, told the Times, “That's a lot of money... seemingly cost-ineffective.” He continued, "As for the benefits to the environment, that's an art rather than science."
In fact, just recently, one citizen living near a busy park where the trash cans were removed told the Times, “the can at a nearby bus stop was overflowing from park users' trash.”
So questions remain surrounding the costs Seattleites are being forced to pay for their part in this “culture shift” and whether or not there are any real benefits?
Yesterday, Governor Gregoire issued Executive Order 09-05, which directs state agencies to look for ways to reduce the states greenhouse gas emissions. However, there appears to be significant a difference between what the Governor is saying and the legal authority of Executive Orders.
In the Governor’s press release announcing her Executive Order, the Governor said, “We can’t further delay action on climate change.” She continued:
“This executive order benefits our economy as much as our environment. It will protect our natural resources, while creating thousands of green-collar jobs and strengthening our state’s competitiveness in the global race for a clean energy economy.”
In addition, while speaking at her press conference to discuss the Executive Order, the Governor established a tone of urgency. She said:
“Are we going to simply sit and do nothing and allow the status quo? Or are we going to exercise the kind of leadership…to address climate change.”
Clearly the Governor is conveying a message of action, but does an Executive Order really provide the Governor with the teeth necessary to implement the action she is calling for?
In 1991 the Attorney General’s office issued an opinion, AGO 1991 No. 12, regarding the use of Executive Order that, in part, concluded:
“The legislative authority of the State of Washington is vested in the Legislature. In absence of a statute or constitutional provision that serves as a source of authority authorizing the Governor to act, the Governor cannot create obligations, responsibilities, conditions or processes having the force and effect of law by the issuance of an executive order.”
In light of the AGO from 1991, perhaps the Legislature, which chose not to implement similar policies during the past legislative session, will want to ask the current Attorney General to review Executive Order 09-05 to ensure that the Governor has not exceeded her legal authority.
According to the latest Rasmussen Report, a nationally recognized polling firm, only 42% of Americans believe that a major lifestyle change is needed to save the environment, while 44% disagree and believe no such lifestyle changes are unnecessary.
Not surprisingly, the Rasmussen Report shows that there is a partisan divide on the issue. The survey found that 57% of Democrats surveyed believe that change is required to help save the environment, but 58% of Republicans disagreed. Interestingly the survey also finds that:
For those not affiliated with either major political party, 36% believe lifestyle changes will be necessary, while 49% take the opposite view.
Of additional note, a Rasmussen Report released just last month revealed a reversal of opinion for the cause of global warming. Among those surveyed the number of Americans that believes global warming was caused by humans has drastically declined. In that report, only 34% believed global warming was caused by humans. 48% believe that global warming was caused by “long-term planetary trends.” The survey notes:
These numbers reflect a reversal from a year ago when 47% blamed human activity while 34% said long-term planetary trends.
The Rasmussen Reports show that Americans are not satisfied by the current political pursuits, such as cap-and-trade, to stop global warming.
WashingtonVotes.org has released its annual Missed Votes Report, detailing missed roll call votes on bills and amendments for every legislator during the 2009 Legislative Session.
WashingtonVotes.org is the state's premier legislative information website that provides concise, plain-English, objective descriptions of every bill, amendment and vote of the Washington legislature.
2009 Session Quick Facts: - Number of Roll Call votes in the House: 887 - Number of Bills Introduced in the Legislature: 2,584 - Number of Roll Call votes in the Senate: 847 - Number of Bills Passed by the Legislature: 599 - Number of legislators who didn't miss any of these votes: 47 - Number of legislators who missed more than 100 votes: 6
WashingtonVotes.org Director Brandon Houskeeper says the missed votes tool enables Washingtonians to track the actions of their elected officials in Olympia. "Obtaining this information from the state would require a person to read and record information from thousands of pages of legislative documents," he said, "but the WashigtonVotes.org Missed Votes Report puts that same information in front of Washingtonians with just one or two clicks."
There are many legitimate reasons why legislators miss votes during a session. "Legislators are often meeting with constituents, other lawmakers or dealing with unexpected emergencies, that is the value of the Missed Votes Report." Houskeeper noted, "Washingtonians can use WashingtonVotes.org as an informational resource and tool."
Today the House Capital Budget Committee will consider HB 2334, asking voters to approve a $3 billion package to fund capital improvement projects that promise increased health, safety and energy efficiency in public facilities.
Supporters of the legislation claim the bonds would be repaid in part from cost savings of improved energy efficiency. In addition, proponents highlight requirements to use performance based contracting to achieve the savings.
Unfortunately, these claims are misleading and could potentially threaten the bond ratings of other investments.
Proponents of HB 2334 are wrong to tie promises of energy savings to cost repayments through performance based contracting. Performance based contracting was established as a tool to ensure that, when a contractor makes promises through a contract, results are achieved.
The State's General Administration (GA) website provides a good explanation of how the State has used performance based contracts on a variety of projects, with promising results.
According to the site about 100 projects have used this system. These projects have cost taxpayers more than $150 million to complete with a claimed savings of roughly $11.5 million annually. At this rate of return it would take more than thirteen years to pay back the costs of all of these projects. These numbers, however, have several flaws.
For instance, they are not audited and it is difficult to promise actual energy savings. When a building uses the performance based contract process, an inspection will identify what systems can be changed to achieve greater efficiency. If the agency chooses to change light fixtures, a contractor can promise savings from changing each fixture because they are essentially changing light bulbs for more energy efficient bulbs. The contractor, however, does not guarantee that the light fixture will be utilized or operated in the same manner as the previous fixture, and, according to the GA, is unlikely to promise a return on investment through cost repayment.
The "annual savings" identified by the GA's spreadsheet are snapshots in time and are not meant to predict actual savings. The GA is honest that these numbers do not represent actual, audited energy savings. Given the difficulty they are having identifying those savings in the current, modest program, how likely is it that they will do better when the program spends thirteen times as much in a two year period over what was spend during the past 10 year period?
Given the amorphous nature of the energy savings estimates, is it wise to base the State's bond payments on hoped-for, but hard to recover, energy savings?
While it may be true that the money spent will provide greater health or safety improvements, there is no data available to suggest that this results in cost savings. In fact, as our research shows (What Washington's "Green" Schools Tell Us about HB 2334's $3 Billion Spendnig Plan), such modifications to systems that would improve air quality, like an HVAC system run more frequently to bring in fresh air, often results in higher energy cost. Savings have yet to be realized as was promised in previous energy saving packages. The performance data available thus far for "green" schools provides legislators with a valuable tool for better understanding the promises of cost savings and energy efficiencies in HB 2334.
In addition, the proposal to increase the indebtedness of the State has caught the attention of Democrat State Treasurer Jim McIntire. In a statement regarding the $3 billion bond package he noted that, "added debt called for in HB 2334 is too much" and that, "It would threaten our credit rating and would affect the rest of our investments in transportation and public infrastructure." Harming the credit rating could lead to an increase in rates and additional cost to the taxpayers, minimizing further any potential benefits from the proposed projects.
Finally, if these projects will truly deliver the claimed savings, one has to wonder why they were not funded when the state had surpluses. The State's 2007-09 biennial Capital Budget is $4.6 billion and the 2009-11 proposed biennial Capital Budget before the House is $2.9 billion with the bonds making up approximately half of these budgets. Increasing the debt to fund projects that have not met priorities when funding was available makes the return on investment even more unlikely.
As the House Capital Budget Committee considers HB 2334 it is important to understand that the proposal before them over promises on what it can deliver.
Just this week Seattle's Mayor, Greg Nickels, released the latest list of city streets that will be closed to vehicle traffic this summer. The street closures are a continuation of the City's Car-Free Days from last year, however, this year the Mayor appears to have moved away from the over-reaching environmental promises that were used to promote last year's events.
Don't believe me? Check out this week's press release from the Mayor where he declares that, "Biking, walking, drawing chalk pictures, taking in the sights or shopping and eating at local establishments, Celebrate Seattle Summer Streets is a great way to spend time with family and friends."
Compare this with last year's announcement when the Mayor promised, "we'll be fighting global warming at the same time."
Last year I questioned whether the Mayor's promises that Car-Free Days would have an impact on global warming or help to reduce Seattleites dependence on cars. In fact, after the conclusion of last year's events I followed up with the City to see what environmental benefit, if any, was gained.
As the 2009 Legislative Session starts on Monday, WashingtonVotes.org rolls out its enhanced 2.0 website that increases user accessibility and function.
WashingtonVotes.org is a free website that provides concise, plain-English, objective descriptions of every bill, amendment and vote of the Washington legislature. The site's searchable electronic database, by issue or bill number, allows users to learn about every action of the legislature within 24 hours of its occurrence.
Citizens interested in particular bills and issues such as health care, education or taxes can also register to receive daily e-mail alerts of legislative action on those bills and issues.
This information is completely non-partisan, non-ideological and free to the user. Users can also easily find who their legislator is and the latest bills on a specific subject and follow the progress of those bills. The website also includes an archive of past bills going back to the 2001 Legislative Session.