"The recently passed economic stimulus bill promises to create thousands of green jobs. Vice President Biden's new Middle Class Task Force devoted its first meeting, last Friday in Philadelphia, to praising their virtues. President Obama contends that his policies will deliver 5 million green jobs in the next two decades."
"The fundamental problem is that there's no solid evidence that green policies-even those aimed explicitly at creating jobs-will actually lower the long-term unemployment rate. Most of the research on how these sorts of programs might build up the work force simply tallies the payrolls, current or projected, of companies in renewable energy and other sectors. (Analyses typically include not only jobs installing solar panels or engineering algae for biofuels but also secondary activities like making widgets for use in windmills.) This approach is a natural winner: Green policies inevitably generate jobs in green industries, so the studies inevitably deliver good news. But skeptics argue that simple windmill-counting ignores an important fact: Every unit of energy generated from alternative sources displaces a similar amount generated by traditional means, so forgoing those other energy sources means giving up whatever jobs they were providing. This doesn't mean that greening the economy will have no net impact on jobs, but it muddies the math considerably."