In my view most “green jobs” arguments are bunk. While such estimates may have their practical uses, for the most part they are convenient lies. Industry lies to politicians and bureaucrats to get subsidies, and politicians recycle the lies to get votes. My view is not particularly subtle.
Edward Glaeser provides a subtler view, illustrated in his assessment of the most recent “green jobs fiasco” argument. Evergreen Solar recently decided to move its manufacturing plants from Massachusetts to China. Evergreen had received several million dollars in green energy and local economic development subsidies as it grew from an idea to an employer of 800 or so workers, but in the end lower costs (and an offer of still more subsidies from the Chinese government) led it to move manufacturing oversees. Does this mean subsidies for green jobs don’t work?
The main difficulty with solar energy has always been cost, which is why the falling price of solar panels that seemingly pushed Evergreen to close Devens is actually good news.
As long as solar panels are getting cheaper, we shouldn’t worry about where they are being produced. We should continue financing research on solar technology as long as that research continues to produce cost-cutting breakthroughs, like “string ribbon” technology, but we shouldn’t pretend that cheaper solar energy will end up employing millions of our less-skilled citizens.
And even more to the point:
Massachusetts’s edge lies in ideas, not products. Those ideas are best produced in creative clusters, built around cities, where knowledge moves easily from inventor to entrepreneur. The only production that really needs to occur in greater Boston is the early-stage manufacturing that can be an important part of the research process. Mature companies, like Evergreen Solar, naturally move their factories to lower-cost areas.