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NRDC Wind Jobs Report Doesn’t Make the Grade (250 MW does not create 1,000+ jobs)

The carefully-crafted press release by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) presents their new wind-energy jobs report as thorough, objective, and academically sound. Although such an assessment would be very welcome, their “report” is no more than marketing propaganda. Their blatant bias here gives further credence to a piece by Henry Miller of the Hoover Institution, “Bad Faith and Bad Science at the NRDC,” which concluded that “NRDC continues to peddle junk science” for their own financial gain.

Energy specialists ordinarily don’t have the time to critique sales brochures, but here are some quick observations on this material:

1 – There is a strong implication given that a 250 MW wind energy facility creates “1,079 jobs.” That is not true. The vast majority of the jobs cited are for people already employed — e.g. lawyers, real estate professionals, acoustical consultants, etc. Put another way, these people would not be unemployed just because a 250 MW facility was not built.

2 – Contrary to the insinuations made by NRDC, “1,079 jobs for a 250 MW facility” are not full-time dedicated jobs. For instance an Iberdrola draftsman may work for one month designing part of some 250 MW project, and then move onto something else. He is apparently counted as “one job”. The proper way to deal with this situation is to show a more applicable metric: “job years” rather than “jobs.”

3 – How many of the jobs will actually be in the US? The NRDC report avoids that detail. For instance, the Iberdrola draftsman mentioned in the prior item, is likely a Spanish citizen working in Spain. British leaders were enticed by job claims to approve the largest wind project in the world. This subsequent investigation concluded:

“The Danish operator of the world’s biggest offshore windfarm, off Cumbria, is the latest to come under fire for favoring foreign suppliers and allegedly providing ‘negligible’ work or services to local UK companies.”

4 – For all of the first three reasons, the NRDC job claims can not be extrapolated. In other words, ten 250 MW wind facilities do NOT result in 10,790 jobs. This important point is not made sufficiently clear. In fact it’s much worse than that. This LA Times investigation concluded:

“Even though a record 10,000 MW of new wind generating capacity came online, few jobs were created overall, and wind power manufacturing employment fell.” [Note that this dismal conclusion came after starting up the equivalent of forty 250 MW projects!]

5 – Maybe I missed it, but in each of the categories where NRDC claimed there were a number of jobs, I could not find any independent verification of the employment numbers they asserted. The “Methodology” section (p 34) gave a casual explanation of how the numbers came about, but there is zero actual real-world data provided.

In other words, the job claim numbers are not transparent, so no verification is possible. Based on the numerous other blatant propaganda statements made throughout this piece, the job numbers can be safely assumed to be likewise exaggerated. See this detailed analysis that looks at this issue, and others.

6 – Note these two statement in the report: a) “This report does not involve an existing project, but rather an ‘illustrative’ project…” and b) “This analysis is not intended to provide a proxy for current U.S. wind industry employment.” (p 34). Translated into English, these statements mean that the job numbers claimed by NRDC are not based on empirical, real-world numbers, but are computer calculations, estimates, approximations and other guesses — all made by wind promoters and others having a vested interest in the outcome. NRDC should have made that clear in their opening remarks.

7 – Nowhere in this report are NET jobs discussed. Several studies by independent experts (e.g. here or here) have concluded that wind development results in NET JOB LOSSES. This is because more jobs are lost than created due to such negative impacts as higher cost electricity.

8 – Another important consideration (unmentioned in this report) is: what is the cost per job created? Analyses by independent financial experts conclude that the cost per wind job created by such subsidies, is extremely high (e.g. here and here). [Speaking of costs, the report states (p 31) that extending the PTC "will bring down costs." This bold sales pitch is not substantiated. It would seem that a more accurate statement would be that extending the PTC "will maintain developers' high profit margins."]

9 – Of course any tax handout (e.g. the PTC) will create some jobs. If we assume that we will impose this financial burden on taxpayers, an important perspective to consider is: how many jobs would be created if the same amount of tax revenue was directed to another area — e.g. for a more reliable energy source? The NRDC report never examines that critical question.

10-Which would be better, to have 1 GWH of electrical energy provided by: a) 250 jobs, or b) 1,000 jobs? The NRDC document implies that more jobs is better. The fallacy of that premise is explained here.

11-Energy attorney Chris Horner hits the nail on the head, saying:

“There is nothing – no program, no hobby, no vice, no crime — that does not ‘create jobs’. Tsunamis, computer viruses and shooting convenience store clerks all ‘create jobs’. So a jobs contention misses the mark — since it applies to all, it is an argument in favor of none. Instead of making a case on the merits, an employment claim is an admission that one has no good arguments.”

12-Yet another major consideration is: what is the net societal benefit of any preserved jobs? For instance there is also a production chain of jobs involved with the eight-track audio tape business. They are disappearing due to the fact that alternative products (e.g. CDs) are better. Should taxpayers subsidize the eight-track tape business to preserve those jobs? This report provided zero scientific proof that wind energy provides any societal net gains.

The conclusion is obvious: the sole objective of AWEA, NRDC and their anti-taxpayer allies is to mine the wallets of unsuspecting citizens. This short AWEA TV interview yesterday makes it quite clear. Citizens should get educated about this charade (see PTCFacts.Info), and then promote science-based energy policies. That will go a LONG way towards ending an era of chronic, unsustainable budget deficits.

4 comments

1 Jon Boone { 09.19.12 at 10:31 am }

There is something distinctively Warholian about wind technology, with its fantasia of celebrity unhinged from competent or authentic performance. Wind performance is, at virtually every level of consideration, including its ability to produce meaningful levels of long term employment, a fictional character, with no there there. Years ago, I had remarked that wind had all the hallmarks of celebrity in that it was famous for being famous. It deserves mention in the same breath with the Kim Kardashians and Paris Hiltons of our culture–entrepreneurial cul de sacs that suggest soulless brain death.

No wonder that films about vampires and cartoon super heroes dominate the box office.

2 Colette McLean { 09.19.12 at 6:39 pm }

That interview with Denise Bode was hilarious. If wind is so cheap than why does it need a federal tax subsidy?? The Fox interviewer was clearly frustrated with her round about answer/ no answer. A classic.

3 jack sullivan { 09.24.12 at 9:08 am }

It is interesting to note that wind projects listing 250 MW “nameplate capacity” will in fact produce only 50 to 75 MW on an annual average. Wind project outputs are so exaggerated as to be laughable.

4 Jeffrey Eric Grant { 10.16.12 at 11:48 am }

It is obvious to me that over the years science education has fallen to such a low that the average high school graduate cannot understand the science around them. They thus either don’t care, or worse, substitute junk science for empirical science.

Empirical science is needed to get the root of our scientific inquiry. To continue the way we are going right now will be to perpetuate the “politics of science” – so, of course, we will never get the scientific “truths”.

Wind Power is in such a place. How can we ever get out of this mess when the average US Citizen either cannot or will not understand the science behind the actions being taken?

Credible political leaders are desperately needed throughout our society to help us get back to the truth in science.

It will be a hard row to hoe!

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