Don’t trust me, I’m an economist?
Please forgive this delayed reaction to a PM news item last Friday 8 January. It could have come straight from the climate change deniers’ brigade. I’ve had to check my facts. Presenter Eddie Mair reported that 70,000 new jobs would be created following the Government’s announcement of nine new offshore windfarms, requiring 6,000 massive wind turbines.
“70,000 jobs? A tricky one”, Eddie told us. He then asked Tim Harford, aka the Undercover economist, and presenter on BBC TV of “Trust Me, I’m an Economist” to comment.
It’s fair enough for Tim to question the source of the jobs estimate (a study for the Carbon Trust). But every commentator knows full well that the number of green energy jobs actually created in the UK depends crucially on where the turbines are made. The TUC has always argued for the rapid growth of a domestic wind turbine industry. High ambition equals high job numbers.
But then Tim seems to have lost his compass, citing a “Spanish study” to suggests that investing a billion euros would “destroy 2,000 jobs”, because of “all the taxes on businesses and higher electricity bills”. No it wouldn’t, Tim.
Go to the websites. You’ll see that the study is rubbish. First, it’s not a Spanish study, but a study of Spain’s renewable energy industry by a US research institute, using deeply flawed analysis. It was widely criticised aim at the time of publication, March 2009, was to undermine President Obama’s drive to create clean energy jobs. I mean, just look at the “Spanish study’s” headline findings and you get suspicious:
- The “green jobs” agenda now being promoted in the U.S. in fact destroys jobs.
- The results demonstrate how “green jobs” policy clearly hinders Spain’s way out of the economic crisis.
- Those programs resulted in the destruction of 113,000 jobs elsewhere in the economy.
- The U.S. can expect 2.2 jobs to be destroyed for every 1 renewable job financed by the government.
- Only 1 in 10 of the jobs actually created through green investment is permanent.
An analysis by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory found, “fundamental and technical limitations of the analysis conducted by King Juan Carlos University”, with critical shortcomings in assumptions implicit in the conclusions.
ISTAS, the Spanish labour organisation, was fuming. I know, because we were working together at the UN climate change conference in Bonn when the study was published. Using official labour statistics, ISTAS researchers found that 189,000 jobs were created in Spain’s renewable industry (33,000 in wind), with 99,000 indirect jobs. Renewables reduced the nation’s energy dependency. Energy prices in Spain were below the EU average.
One bad call doesn’t make you a bad economist, Tim, but your listeners are entitled to a public correction.