On his Fox Business show, Eric Bolling hosted Dr. Gabriel Calzada from Spain's Universidad Rey Juan Carlos to criticize the Obama administration's green jobs initiatives. Calzada called Spain's renewable energy program "a total disaster" and argued that it should not be used as a model for U.S. clean energy policy. Bolling wondered whether there is still time "to pull back all the money and assets and resources we're putting into green":
Dr. Calzada is the founder of a libertarian think-tank and co-author of a 2009 study claiming that Spain's renewable energy programs "destroyed" 2.2 jobs "for every green job created." The study asserts that these costs are not unique to Spain's approach, but instead are "largely inherent in schemes to promote renewable energy sources."
Of course Fox failed to mention that Calzada's study, commissioned by the industry-funded Institute for Energy Research, has been widely discredited due to its suspect methodology and unsupported conclusions.
Nevertheless, conservative media outlets continue to cite the Calzada study to criticize green jobs, including at least a dozen times in the past two weeks:
- Fox Business, Follow the Money, 8/30/11
- Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/30/11
- Fox News, Happening Now, 8/24/11
- Fox News, The Five, 8/19/11
- Fox News, Your World With Neil Cavuto, 8/17/11
- Wash. Examiner, 8/30/11
- Wash. Times, 8/24/11
- LA Times, 8/23/11
- Media Research Center, 8/22/11
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 8/21/11
- Weekly Standard, 8/19/11
- Investor's Business Daily, 8/16/11
A U.S. Department of Energy white paper stated that Calzada's study "represents a significant divergence from traditional methodologies used to estimate employment impacts from renewable energy. In fact, the methodology does not reflect an employment impact analysis." Therefore, the paper concluded that "the primary conclusion made by the authors - policy support of renewable energy results in net job losses - is not supported by their work."
Wall Street Journal reporter Keith Johnson also pointed out the study's flaws in 2009:
But the study doesn't actually identify those jobs allegedly destroyed by renewable-energy spending. What the study actually says is that government spending on renewable energy is less than half as efficient at job creation as private-sector spending. Specifically, each green job required on average 571,000 euros, compared with 259,000 euros in "average capital per worker" in the rest of the economy.
So how does that translate into outright job destruction? It's simply a question of opportunity cost, the paper says: "The money spent by the government cannot, once committed to "green jobs", be consumed or invested by private parties and therefore the jobs that would depend on such consumption and investment will disappear or not be created."
On paper, that makes sense. But Spain's support for renewable energy came out of existing tax revenues--there were no special levies on corporate activity designed to underwrite clean energy.
The money the government has spent on clean energy may have edged out other government spending, but it's hard to see how it could have edged out private-sector spending, especially when the Socialist government there has reduced corporate income-tax rates, most recently this past January.
The study has also been rejected by the Spanish government. In a 2009 letter to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Spain's Secretary of State for Climate Change wrote that Calzada's analysis used a "low reliable and non-rigorous methodology" and that the data he used are "totally out of keeping with the current reality of the sector."
In contrast to Calzada's conclusions, the European Commission's on the status of Spain's renewable energy sector found that "given the increase in renewable penetration in Spain, there are significant employment opportunities arising from this growth. Therefore, in addition to heading towards meeting its renewable energy targets, the Spanish economy can directly benefit, in the future, from the implementation of a proactive renewable energy strategy." The report estimated that under current policies, the potential net employment growth in Spain is 180,000 jobs per year by 2020. Under an Advanced Renewable Strategy, that number would jump to 288,000 jobs.
In a letter to U.S. Congressional leaders, Spain's IDEAS Foundation, a progressive think tank, wrote:
Official figures from the Spanish Ministry of Labour prove that the sector of renewable energies has created 175,000 jobs, 82% of which are high-quality jobs. While representing only one percent of the country's labor force, the sector is so productive that it already generates 20% of the electricity consumed by Spanish households and companies. The official projections from ISTAS (Syndicated Institute for labor, environment and health) also shows that this sector is set to create 270,000 more jobs in Spain by 2020. If this trend were to hold true in the US economy, which is more than ten times larger than that of Spain, this suggests the creation of over 5 million clean energy jobs in just ten years.
The letter also criticized Calzada's study, saying it "tries to find a long-term trend, but only cites employment data for the last year during Spain's serious recession" and noted that Calzada "works for a small research institute with clear links to the energy industry and the extreme right-wing of the Spanish Conservative Party."
An analysis by Spain's Union Institute of Work, Environment and Health (ISTAS) criticized Calzada's methodology for a "lack of scientific rigor", saying that "the lack of transparency that exists in the data provided is alarming." The report went on to call the study "an essay providing opinions and written with editorial overtones based on secondary information that is poorly referenced and/or explained and which provides only partial statements of the facts."
The analysis suggested that one of the "the real intention[s] behind the document" was to "try and influence the U.S. media." In that regard, at least, Calzada's study has clearly made an impact.