Green Crony Capitalism: Do Energy Retrofits Really Create 50 Green Jobs for $171?
Why doesn't the environmental left turn to the creativity of the free market for solutions that reduce resource use, environmental impact and improve energy efficiency? Maybe because they don't understand, at a basic level, what the free market is.
Here is a perfect example.
In a section called "Eco-Capitalists," the Seattle environmental group Climate Solutions highlights a program to make homes more energy efficient. The benefits they claim are dramatic. These retrofits, they say, have significant environmental benefit.
The Carbon Math: Each Green Canopy Home mitigates the same annual amount of green house gas emissions as the average car produces each year (12,600 lbs CO2 per year according to the EPA).
At the same time, they claim, each of these projects create dozens of jobs. They claim "that approx. 50 people are employed in the process of each home retrofit."
If these numbers are true, however, it is an example of an enormous waste of resources.
California is creating a cap-and-trade system over the next decade, and it predicts the cost to reduce one metric ton of CO2 (2,200 lbs.) will be about $30. By reducing 12,600 lbs. of CO2, these projects produce $171 of environmental benefit a year.
Put simply, Climate Solutions claims it took 50 people to provide $171 of environmental benefit. If we put those 50 people to work for 24 minutes flipping burgers at minimum wage, we could generate the same amount of money – money we could donate to an environmental charity and do more good for the environment at lower cost.
The environmental left seems to calculate the benefits of a "business" deal based on whether all of the interest groups benefit. Environmentalists get what they want. Politicians can claim credit for the project. Various businesses get taxpayer money and can claim to create "jobs" even if they deliver little. The homeowner gets a subsidized improvement to their house. What's not to like?
Of course what is ignored is the cost to do these things and whether those taxpayer resources could have been used effectively. Spending large amounts of money to provide tiny amounts of environmental benefit is a waste of resources. In a true free market, these sorts of wasteful projects would not be completed. Other projects that truly saved energy and resources would be favored.
If you think that capitalism is politicians, special interest groups and businesses conspiring against taxpayers to provide benefits to a select group of people, why wouldn't you have an unfavorable opinion of it?
Unfortunately, this system, where politicians use taxpayer dollars to benefit favored businesses and interest groups, is exactly the system we have right now in Washington state when it comes to environmental policy. That is not a free market, and it leads to ruin, as Spain, Greece and other European countries are finding out.
As I wrote in the USA Today recently, if the left is truly concerned about rules that take money from working families and give it to those with government connections, they should start by ending phony, political projects like these.