Those millions of new ‘green’ jobs are going to China and India
By Ronald Stein
When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently urged workers upset by the Biden administration’s decision to scuttle the Keystone XL pipeline to “learn to make solar panels”, he was oblivious to the fact that China and India dominate the solar panel manufacturing market.
President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Recovery Plan is to build a modern, resilient climate infrastructure that will create millions of good-paying union jobs, but Biden, like Kerry, may not be aware of America being unable to financially compete with the world’s solar panel manufacturing markets without huge government subsidies.
China and India not only control the supply chain of materials for solar panels, wind turbines, and EV batteries, but also have the least stringent environmental controls for the mining of the renewable materials like lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite, copper, and many others, and minimal labor laws for their low-cost labor supply.
To meet their growing manufacturing sectors, China and India are deadly serious about their economic development, which means there is no place at all for electricity that cannot be delivered in volume, on demand, 24×365, whatever the weather. Hence, China has built more coal-fired power capacity in the last decade than any other country on earth as there appears to be no end in sight for China’s mammoth coal-fired power rush.
Work outsourced to foreign counties also results in a higher carbon footprint over and above doing that work in a more environmentally stringently controlled location like America.
Kerry has learned very little from the first two countries to go Green – Germany and Australia. Neither countries’ manufacturing sector can compete with China and India. With the Biden administration seeking an increase to the minimum wage to $15 an hour, America is surely not going to be competitive with China or India to manufacture solar panels in America.
Unless wages and conditions deteriorate significantly in advanced countries, the subsidized induced demand may go up for renewables in America, but those millions of new ‘green’ jobs for Americans is not going to happen as Kerry hopes. Those manufacturing jobs will go to China and India, and Americans will get the crumbs to just install those foreign made products, and then look for work at other locations.
Death and taxes are certainties, but the relationship between government subsidies to wind and solar and ‘green’ jobs becomes obvious, as soon as those subsidies get slashed.
As experienced in Germany, Australia, and Denmark, wind and solar investments disappear just as soon the government subsidies are cut. The European collapse in wind turbine manufacturers and solar panels was sudden and staggering, but not surprising. The ‘green’ economy in those countries turned gangrenous:
- 80,000 German solar workers were sacked when a cut to the subsidies occurred and ‘green’ jobs instantly vanished.
- Germany led the charge on intermittent electricity from wind and solar so seriously it has a word for it, Energiewende but as subsidies have been cut, its wind industry faced Armageddon, bringing Germany’s wind turbine construction to a standstill.
- The Global Warming Policy Forum report revealed the number of jobs in the German renewable sector — production and installation — had almost halved from 300,000 in 2011 to around 150,000 in 2018.
- Twelve countries in the European Union (EU) failed to install “a single wind turbine” in 2018. And, as a result, the manufacturers of turbines and solar panels are dropping like flies, as subsidies are rolled back across Europe.
- In Denmark’s green jobs mirage, Europe’s biggest wind turbine maker sacked hundreds of workers as subsidies were slashed.
Wind and solar jobs are government subsidy funded intermittent work to produce intermittent electricity. As we have learned from the intermittent electricity shortcomings Nor’easters are disastrous to a Green America.
Intermittent electricity from wind and solar is fundamentally less jobs-intensive than supplying energy from traditional power sources. For continuous, uninterruptible, and reliable electricity it takes hundreds, sometimes thousands, of skilled workers to operate coal, gas, and nuclear plants that provide. By contrast, solar panels and wind turbines are largely set-and-forget once they are up and running.
The stimulus package is great temporary band-aid fix for businesses and employment during these pandemic times, but economies cannot survive with continuous government funds. Constant taxpayer subsidies in perpetuity that are supporting the intermittent electricity generation from wind and solar renewables, are not producing meaningful employment; it is welfare by another name.
With the recent roll backs or elimination of government subsidies in Germany, Australia, and Denmark in mind, it would take a brave soul or a person oblivious to facts, to tout a ‘green’ jobs bonanza in America for subsidized, intermittent, and wholly unreliable electricity from wind turbines and solar panels that have become a proven social and economic disaster in other countries.
Ronald Stein is an engineer who, drawing upon 25 years of project management and business development experience, launched PTS Advance in 1995. He is an author, engineer, and energy expert who writes frequently on issues of energy and economics.