Newsweek’s Funny Numbers on Green Jobs

An article in the new issue ofNewsweek (10/24/11)–“Obama’s Big Green Mess: How the White House lost its Eco-Mojo”–presents White House policy as a series of failures. It starts off with federal inspectors finding serious problems with various weatherization projects. That’s just the tip of the iceberg–from Solyndra to stimulus, things aren’t looking good. But writers Daniel Stone and Eleanor Clift seems to want to give White House critics an assist with things like this:

Overall, as the $787 billion economic stimulus–the primary engine for the green-energy agenda–came to an end September 30, it is clear that the program created far fewer jobs than promised. So-called green-collar jobs are notoriously hard to tally, but numerous estimates by gleeful Republicans put the taxpayer cost of each green-energy job created by the stimulus at more than $1 million.

OK, so it’s really hard to figure out the numbers on this–but here’s one that gleeful Republicans like to throw around?

In cases like this, it seems especially important to give readers a sense of the range of estimates. Robert Pollin from the University of Massachusetts estimates that you get 17 green jobs per $1 million of government expenditure. By comparison, the oil/gas industry produces five per million, the military about 11.

And at a House hearing on the White House and green jobs and stimulus funds last month, one Republican complained that the government was spending $80,000 per green job–that’s 12.5 per million.

Newsweek is right to suggest that there are debates over how to count green jobs, and how much the government should be investing in clean energy. But this article should have given readers more to work with than a scary-sounding number popular with Republicans.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.