Green Jobs? No. Green Unemployment!

Americans buying into the myth of Green Jobs

According to the Press Association, more than 200 green groups, businesses and trade unions have written to the Prime Minister urging the government to back renewables.

They say the potential of renewables to boost growth is “tremendous”, and argue that green sector growth “far outstripped the wider economy last year”.  Nothing to do with massive subsidies, I suppose?  But the letter was organised by the Renewable Energy Association, so I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised.

They want “Team GB” (note the topical Olympics reference) to be “a world leader in green skilled jobs and technology”.  This is a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to transform our energy system to be fit for the future.  They call on the government to ”live up to its promise to be the greenest ever”.  “Renewables must not be treated like a political football between the Dept of Energy and the Treasury”, they say.  Britain, they added, was “lagging behind virtually all other countries on Green energy”.  (This doesn’t accord with the recent report from BIS,  which says that by 2020 UK energy prices will have a higher “green” component than any other major economy).

Let’s unpack this stuff.  It’s not only untrue.  It’s the direct opposite of the truth.

Renewable energy is expensive.  Even on the wind industry’s assumptions, wind is more expensive than gas or coal.  But the industry simply costs the output of wind turbines in isolation (and gives itself pretty generous estimates of working life, at that).  But wind is useless without instantly available back-up — sometimes called “spinning reserve”.  This is usually gas.

Two problems.  First, we’re not building anything like the gas capacity we’d need to back-up the vast wind capacity the government implausibly plans by 2020.  And we can’t use existing gas capacity.  With more than 30% of current UK generating capacity closing by 2020 (nuclear because of end-of-life; coal because of the EU’s Large Combustion Plant Directive) we need all the gas we have for mainstream generation.  We’ll need extra for wind back-up, and we’re not building it.

Second problem: gas plants are built for more-or-less continuous operation.  Run them intermittently, to complement wind, and they’re hopelessly uneconomic — unless they price their output way over the odds.  Who’s going to invest in them?  Who’s going to pay the premium?  And the average cost of electricity generated by wind+back-up will be much higher than the quoted cost of wind alone.  Credible estimates put the capital cost of wind+gas back-up at up to ten times the equivalent cost of gas alone.

So what about the green jobs?  Professor Gordon Hughes of Edinburgh University, in a report for the Global Warming Policy Foundation, points out that merely creating extra jobs isn’t necessarily good for the economy.  You can create jobs by getting a hundred men to dig holes and another hundred men to fill them up again, but that does nothing for the economy.

He then points to many studies showing that renewables actually cost jobs. One of the earliest from Spain, by Professor Gabriel Calzada Alvarez of King Juan Carlos University showed that each green job cost 2.2 jobs in the real economy.  A more recent result from Verso Economics, in Scotland, showed each green job costing four real jobs.

How does this counter-intuitive result come about?  Simply because if you divert economic resources into profoundly inefficient generating technologies, you drive up costs — and you face the opportunity-cost of not having invested elsewhere.

We already see the “green revolution” driving up energy costs, forcing pensioners into fuel poverty, sending jobs and industry and investment off-shore.  Our current energy policies are a disaster for energy-intensive businesses in Britain.

The conclusion is clear: renewables don’t create Green Jobs.  They create Green Unemployment.

And the concluding irony: studies by Prof Hughes and others show that wind turbines actually don’t save significant emissions in the first place.  Those back-up gas plants run intermittently and inefficiently, so they not only cost more per MWh.  They emit more CO2 as well.  And when you take the whole system, wind farms plus back-up, the emissions savings range from not-very-much to zero.  Think of the cost.  The job losses.  The pensioners in fuel poverty.  The industries sent packing offshore.  The local effects.  The disruption.  The housing blight.  The health impacts.  The countryside despoiled.  And all for nothing — even if you believed in the Great Carbon Myth in the first place.

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35 Responses to Green Jobs? No. Green Unemployment!

  1. maureen gannon says:

    And the hamsters wheel keeps turning, turning, turning,

    By the way what happened to get rich Mr Wind turbine Huhme was’nt his trial supposed to be in July ?
    or was it all hushed up ?

  2. Brian Thorogood says:

    How are you going to explain to future generations that there is no gas left because we squandered it on power generation when we had the options of renewables (wind etc.) and nuclear available to us?

    • Tony says:

      Brian, as the ‘fracking’ revolution in the US has shown, there is an abundant supply of cheap, efficient shale gas.

      If you were relying on wind power this week, your PC would not have been able to be switched on most days, as wind output was astonishingly low — on one morning as low as 14 MW for the entire country! (That’s 0.32% efficiency against the installed wind capacity of 4,686 MW, and met 0.04% of the UK Grid demand of 38,400 MW).

      This is a hopeless policy that could only be dreamed up by politicians and the EU bureaucrats.

      Turbines and the outrageous subsidies that underpin them should be scrapped before the lights go out.

    • Lt. Columbo says:

      “You cannot be serious” – ©&® John McEnroe
      This is a Devil’s Advocate question, is it not?.

    • David H. Walker says:

      Brian,

      You’re buying into more myths. You’re an example of why we desperately need to reform education to foster individual, critical thought and analysis.

  3. We have shale gas for at least 100 years. Schlumberger estimate that methane hydrates contain more energy (as natural gas) that all current known deposits of other fossil fuels. By the time we run out of gas (if we ever do), it will be about as old-fashioned as charcoal is today. We’ve been repeatedly warned about the oil running out — I think Paul Ehrlich said 1980? — and each proposed date for “Peak Oil” has been blown away. The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones. It ended when we found a better technology. Same will apply to fossil fuels.

    • Lt. Columbo says:

      well that is correct, but consider also this….

      as a specioes we throw away billions of tonnes of “sewerage” each year into the sea, andif that were fermented instead, it would produce trillions of cubic metres of Methane Gas each year, and so therefore Methane wil NEVER “run out”. It is our choice to throw this valuable resource away, rather than to harvest it. Methane IS a renewable resource.

  4. P.S. And by the way, wind is simply not an option. It requires fossil fuel back-up, which runs intermittently and inefficiently, and the combination of wind plus back-up doesn’t save either fuel or emissions. Agree on nuclear, though.

  5. Brian Thorogood says:

    OK, so we have shale gas for 100 years – what about beyond that? We can’t continue to deplete finite resources at current rates and expect future generations to develop solutions to the problems created by our laziness.
    And why is wind not an option as part of a whole? Provided wind turbines are sensibly located they can generate for a substantial percentage of the day. I have 12 wind turbines in sight of my house here in rural Catalunya and they, and many of the others near to me are turning (at generating speeds) pretty much constantly. Yes we cannot rely on wind and wind alone In the same way that we currently have a mix of generating systems we can have a mix of generating systems that rely on renewable energy (including nuclear). To dismiss renewables out of hand just because we have huge reserves of shale gas (a finite resource, however you may wish to dress it up) is just lazy thinking. And yes I agree that the stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stones . As you say it ended because of the discovery of new and better technology. But I bet that there were a number of Stone Agers who argued that this bronze/iron stuff does not work as well as stone and costs far too much, so we should stay with stone. The fossil fuel age will similarly end because of the development of new technologies.

    • Lt. Columbo says:

      see my comment above – Methane will NEVER run out

      • Lt. Columbo says:

        incidentally there are two reasons for wind turbines turning more or less constantly in Spain, and they are that … i) The Jet Stream has moved further south (Fritz Vahrenholt) and ii) because the turbine rotating set is so heavy, if the blades do not turn for long periods, this causes a flat spot or indent in the bearings, leading to vibration and subsequent power losses, so when there is insufficient wind, the blades must be rotated by motive power to prevent that, thus becoming a net consumer of power during such periods..

    • Please, Brian, take the trouble to read if you’re going to criticise! As I said above, there’s enough natural gas in methane hydrates for probably centuries after shale gas. And I don’t know what will replace gas, just like a mediaeval charcoal burner didn’t know about nuclear fission. I suspect it might be fusion, but it may well be some technology no one’s thought of yet.

      • Brian Thorogood says:

        I did read what you said but made the error of not referring to your reference to methane hydrates and for that I apologise. The jury is still out on the quantity of methane available and yes there may well be centuries of resources at current energy usage levels. However that still does not get away from the issue of unnecessarily wasting finite resources.that may be needed by future generations. If there was any criticism it was only of the short term thinking of the anti-renewables brigade. You refuse to deal with the long term issues with the belief that using everything up does not matter because we will always find another energy source. I think that a better, wiser and more considerate approach is to conserve what we have while we are searching for those new energy sources.

  6. neilfutureboy says:

    I don’t find it counter-intuitive that if you pour national resources (or “money” as it is coloquially known) into inefficient subsidy dependent “industries” rather than ones which generate a return, jobs and national wealth are lost overall.

    This argument, though well understood bt Adam Smith and 2 centuries of politicians may now berely be mentioned by our media but that does no make it less than obviously true.

  7. Ammonite says:

    Yes, yes and yes again. I am sick of this green myth and its mantras. It is simply about money at the expense of the land, the seabed, the communities, those who choose to live where they are, the wildlife, those who have no choice but live in proximity of this useless profligate industry The people who pay for these venture capitalists are not being told the truth. The manipulation of data, the capacity to impress dimwit councillors by implying community funds at planning level and that these turbines create REAL jobs, will save them making hard choices between schools and hospitals.

    Everything is corrosive in this industry’s wake. More should be done to examine independently the turbine clusters that are now established and the local effects to the land, drainage, wildlife and tubine failures, sound levels, then there’s the blight on communities and the prospect of an extension or taller turbines is almost inevitable. More should done about the fact that the shadow energy they need so much to even start and stop, or change the direction of turbines is anything but their precious ‘green energy’. SO much of this industry is smoke and mirrors.

    The real fact is we will go on paying for this failed solution dearly – even when they are removed. The blasting of bedrock, the massive concrete cores will still be there, the blades and towers are not exactly easy to landfill or re-cycle. The tracks need maintaining or there will be slippage, feeder streams and culverts need attention. The scale of their footprint is coiossal and the kick to the community – a body blow.

  8. Brian Thorogood says:

    I agree that wind turbines have an environmental impact but then so does every other power generating system, so to base one’s criticism on the “blasting of bedrock. etc…..” is an irrelevancy. (Presumably in your world fracking does not interfere with bedrock and the construction of gas fired power stations has no environmental impact). Quite frankly I would sooner live within sight of a few wind turbines (as I do) than within sight of a gas or coal fired power station where there is the additional impact of CO2 and other emissions. I hasten to add that I also live within about 7km of a nuclear generating station and whilst I am not overly keen on nuclear (long term disposal problems) I concede that, for the time being at least, it is part of the solution to our power needs and does not contribute towards global warming. Finally I would state that I do not have mains power at my house and rely pretty much exclusively on solar panels. I accept that this is not for everybody but here in Catalunya solar provides some 95% of my energy needs, the balance being provided by a diesel generator, although I am currently looking to replace this with a small scale wind turbine. Perhaps the big argument should not be over renewable versus non renewable but more about getting people and industry to cut back on power usage. I have never quite understood why most electricity tariffs charge increasingly lower rates as your power consumption increases. Surely it should be the other way round?

    • Lt. Columbo says:

      So under your strategy though, if the wind doesn’t blow and the Sun is not irradiating (at night), then you will still need your Diesel generating set. As to electricity rates, you obviously do not understand market forces in a free market economy then. There are economies of scale, which is why you see cost reductions for quantity. This is true in all makets, and not just the energy market.

      Furthermore CO2 is not a pollutant, and a farmer would disagree with your thoughts on being near a CO2 producing power plant. This is reflected in land prices per hectare, where land near to a power station is at a premium, because farmers realise that the increased CO2 locally, will mean less artificial fertiliser, earlier crops, and higher yields.

      • Brian Thorogood says:

        Not so. I store energy in batteries to get me through the night, and the same can be used to store energy from a wind turbine when the wind does not blow (which is very rare event here). I understand market forces very well. Indeed market forces would usually cause an increased price to follow increased demand (quite the opposite to what happens in the electricity pricing world). Electricity at the consumer end (and here I mean the domestic consumer) should be priced to discourage excessive use. Economies of scale have little if any relationship to the domestic market.

        I agree that in your terms that CO2 is not a pollutant, but you cannot be unaware of the greenhouse effect of this gas, which does have a negative effect.

    • Brian — it’s not that wind turbines “have an environmental impact”. It’s that they don’t save emissions and they don’t save fossil fuels — so they’re all cost, no benefit. They do nothing but waste money and destroy jobs. See Booker: http://is.gd/vWlmPC

  9. Brenda says:

    If the Govt. is worried about the economy, particularly the construction industry, why don’t they spend their money improving the energy efficiency of all buildings and reduce consumption instead of this disastrous “green” policy. This would create real work for builders, heating engineers etc. and for companies supplying insulation, energy efficient boilers and other systems. It would provide a long term solution, reduce fuel poverty (ROCs and FiTs hit the poorest hardest) and make us less reliant on imported fuels. No destruction of the countryside, no ill effects on people, just plain old commonsense. Something all ministers involved seem remarkably short on. I replaced my old boiler and inefficient system last year – result huge reduction in consumption. If I could insulate properly it would be even better. There is no need for all this waste.

    • maureen gannon says:

      Best Post yet Brenda , 100% common sense, extraction of that goes with the job of those that rule us.

      • maureen gannon says:

        ps Brenda I had my house insulated government grant phone your council there was a programme for it I do not know if it still applies but worth a try .good luck

      • Brenda says:

        Thanks Maureen. I always seem to miss the best grants. Had my roof insulated when I moved in with some grant and later it could have been free. Also I have awkward underfloor space and rubbish double glazing (inherited). Did get boiler scrappage though. Timing seems all important with these things which is silly, how are people supposed to know? Money wasted on windfarms could be used for permanent full grants and scrappage schemes.

      • maureen gannon says:

        Sorry about this Roger but its in a good cause.
        Brenda below is a link [I got it on my age ] but there are other things , hope it helps, have put the link below also try Direct Gov thats helpfull good luck .

        http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Take-action/Grants-and-savings/Energy-saving-grants-and-offers

    • Brenda says:

      I’m a regular visitor to the EST site but you still have to be in the right place at the right time which is why I’d like a universal scheme to upgrade all buildings. A friend of mine up here (N. Highlands) has converted an old house to be so well insulated it will hardly require any input. He’s not the first so why can’t all houses be like this? They do it much better in Scandinavia. Then we wouldn’t need silly windfarms.

      • Ammonite says:

        Ref insulation and homes. I have a good friend who lives in the Highlands that suffers very low temperatures in winter. She is on a low income and owns her own home, unfortunately for her it is traditional stone built and the insulation grants offered means she does not meet the criteria. I was there when they surveyed her upstairs attic room in her single storey home. They could offer her nothing that might help her and confirmed that they had ‘many situations like this’. The jobs that may have been created in this field are myriad and would certainly be able to be done by local labour.
        Wind turbines however seem to take on short term workers with squads of men from other parts of the country that stay temporarily in hotels. Even the connections to the grid from the wind turbine clusters are not done by local skilled men here but regularly imported from Wales.

  10. Ammonite says:

    Of course, there is no incentive for the consumer to use less. It is not in the interests of those in control. Your comment about bed rock is unusual. Find out about Derrybrien. Note the huge areas of wildland compromised. 10% lost in one application alone. There is also no incentive to the end user to consider wasted energy in the form of poor housing/office/factory/shop design, or simply using the conceptual value of using less.
    I have experience of living without mains electricity. Let me assure you much of Britain would not have gained anything compared to you over in Catalunya had we bought into what is fast becoming another sham – solar panels for many, given the state of build, orientation, pitch and roof strengths.
    The first real examination of solar panels being placed on a roof after a house fire entirely due to the installation of wiring faults led to the bald fact that, (as wind turbine fires still are, they have to deal with untested man made materials, paints, curcuitry, falling blades or panels etc.
    The recent fire in a wind cluster substation full of batteries was another good example of the emergency crews not being able to deal with the issue.
    I hope you think carefully about batteries, the siting of them, and their life expectancy. Good luck with the single turbine, I considered one, until I faced the prospect of 3 clusters hitting my skyline, my community, the untrammeled land, with the result of a public enquiry. We won.

    • Lt. Columbo says:

      Overheard recently at an agricultural show (really true) ….

      Two farmers were talking as they walked
      past the display of East European Tractors.

      Farmer 1:
      “I had a wind turbine installed, and it will take me 35 years to recover the costs, because it seems that the wind has dropped dramatically on my land since the original tests were done”

      Farmer 2:
      “That;’s nothing. I had a small hydro generator plumbed in to the stream, which passes my cowsheds, and since then the stream has dried up, and I didn’t get any power at all, until there was a cloudburst last week, and the whole thing flooded and burned out. £26,000 went down the drain, literally.”

      • Brian Thorogood says:

        Yeah!

      • Brenda says:

        Advert by solar panel company in our local farming supplement has
        picture of field full of solar panels – caption This Field Yields £13,640 per acre
        picture of farmer in field of corn – caption This Field Yields £250 per acre

        So what we do eat? Solar panels? Given the drought in the US, we need food. Do we really want the countryside full of solar panels and windfarms? Must be tempting though, all that money for no work.

      • Brian Thorogood says:

        Yes I agree that this is just plain darned wrong, however solar farms are a good use of marginal land that is not much use for anything else (and there is plenty of that around the world). They should in my opinion not be installed on land that can be used for growing food. But; here we get into another area. Primary agricultural prices are so poor, despite high shop prices, that you can’t blame the farmer for being tempted! I grow almonds and olives and the local dealer prices are about 0.30€ per kilo for almonds and about 0.35€ per kilo for olives. It takes roughly 4.5 Kilos of olives to make a litre of extra virgin olive oil giving a cost of around 1.57€ per litre. (processing costs can be paid for from the balance of the oil after extraction of the extra virgin) How much do you pay for a litre of olive oil or a kilo of almonds in your local supermarket? . Another topic for debate, perhaps

  11. David H. Walker says:

    The quickest way to a real, thriving economy in the US and UK is protecting individual freedom, property, liberty; to the point each of us is compelled into good work ethics by necessity or by our culture. At this point Western governments and establishments punish the productive classes by announcing one crisis after another, then insisting on controlling the “solution”. We either end this stupidy nonesense, or we will continue to suffer a loss in economic might and ability to take care of our own affairs.

  12. Pingback: Green Jobs? Ask 900 Tata steel workers | Roger Helmer MEP

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