Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Green is for $

Like a lot of people, I am all for helping the environment. But unlike a lot of people, I am interested in doing things that make sense and pass a simple cost benefit test. Primarily, this means I am opposed to government subsidy of green technology. Therefore, I am skeptical of many environmental ideas hatched by government and “green economy” folk. Case in point is a fellow that wrote an article in the Biz Monthly, Stan Sersen. I don’t doubt his desire to help the planet, but he is not a clear writer who never states the extent of what his reasoning implies and he is spreading misinformation about the economic benefits of a “green economy”.

The Green Economy is about creating long-term solutions, and hence jobs, that will keep money invested in the local economies. After all, that was once the backbone of this country. In 2006, the Baltimore-based International Center for Sustainable Development issued a study to the state of Maryland, titled "Economic Development Potential of Clean Energy Technology in Maryland."

This 283-page report summarized that, with just a low level of effort (20% energy-efficiency improvement, 10% renewable energy increase and 10% ethanol production increase), 144,000 jobs can be created in Maryland alone. The report further states in the summary, "At the highest level of effort ... the economic impacts more than double."

I took a look at the 283 page report that Sersen references (download it here), and it calls for the creation of a “Maryland Clean Energy Center” that is funded to the tune of $15 million by the State. The MCEC will be a private 501(c)3 so it can be run by industry people like Sersen, natch. The MCEC’s stated mission is to “promote the growth of clean energy industry in Maryland.” The writers of the report also want to create a “comprehensive legislative agenda for promoting clean energy development in close cooperation with industry, the legislature and the governor’s office.” In other words, Sersen wants government handouts and special legislative benefits, although he never finds the courage to explicitly state that in his sales job of an article.

So in essence, the economic benefits that are alleged to come from the “green economy” are really just using the force of government to give financial incentives and special favors to an inefficient industry so it can grow at the expense of and compete with a market driven industry. Is that what passes for economic progress these days? I hope not.