Following climate change distortions, Will uses widely disputed study to target green jobs


Despite George Will's history of misinformation on global warming, The Washington Post published a column by Will citing a widely disputed study that was "supported" by an oil-industry-funded think tank and rejected by the Spanish government to suggest that Spain's high unemployment rate is "partly because of spending" to promote green jobs.

Despite George Will's history of misinformation on global warming, The Washington Post published a column by Will on June 25 that cited a widely disputed study "supported" by an oil-industry-funded think tank and rejected by the Spanish government to suggest that Spain's high unemployment rate is "partly because of spending" to promote green jobs, and thus suggest the Obama administration should not pursue similar policies. This follows a pattern in which The Washington Post has allowed Will to repeatedly distort data in order to call into question the overwhelming evidence that humans are causing global warming -- distortions that have elicited widespread criticism, including from Post colleague Gene Robinson, Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander, and World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

In his column, Will wrote that Gabriel Calzada, "an economics professor at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, has produced a report that, if true, is inconvenient for the Obama administration's green agenda." Will went on to describe Calzada's conclusions:

Calzada says Spain's torrential spending -- no other nation has so aggressively supported production of electricity from renewable sources -- on wind farms and other forms of alternative energy has indeed created jobs. But Calzada's report concludes that they often are temporary and have received $752,000 to $800,000 each in subsidies -- wind industry jobs cost even more, $1.4 million each. And each new job entails the loss of 2.2 other jobs that are either lost or not created in other industries.

However, Calzada's study has been widely disputed:

  • In a May 20 letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman, Teresa Ribera Rodríguez, Spain's secretary of state for climate change, stated that "the Spanish Government would like to express its views." She 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." She also wrote:

In Spain, according to the last data of the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Trade the [renewable energy] sector employs 73.900 direct workers, while other report by ISTAS-CCOO (labour union institute of work, environment and health) estimates 89000 direct jobs plus 99681 indirect jobs, against de 52200 direct and indirect jobs to the Calzada's figures (unknown source). According to data of the Ministry of Industy, Tourism and Trade and of the wind power business association, the wind power employed 37730 people instead of the 15000 jobs considered in the Calzada's paper.

  • Additionally, Spain's Union Institute of Work, Environment and Health (ISTAS) conducted an analysis of the Calzada's study and stated that it contained a "lack of scientific rigor." ISTAS also said that the lack "of transparency that exists in the data provided is alarming" and that Calzada had written not "a study ... but rather 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" It also stated that one of the "real intention[s] behind the document" was to "try and influence the U.S. media." ISTAS further wrote of Calzada's study:

From a scientific-technical point of view we find that there is no explicit or true methodology used. This point seems especially relevant considering that this is a sector that has been recently created and that it is of strategic importance to the economy.

The fact that little prior information exists and that it is difficult to study this new sector, makes it necessary to create tools that are appropriate for analyzing it or for the previously existing tools to be used with the utmost care, with the knowledge, while doing so, that they will inevitably have to be adapted. Any method used in research must be stated clearly, is subject to criticism and should be constantly revised and corrected. It is impossible to do so considering how this document is laid out, being that the concepts, information and arguments therein have been set out haphazardly.

The lack of transparency that exists in the data provided is alarming, all the data has been obtained from secondary sources, without considering whether they are of a comparable nature or not. No bibliographical reference is specified for much of the data, nor is there any explanation as to the methods used to calculate it. It does not appear to be a new, original work but rather an attempt to adapt data from other studies and make it fit, studies that, in general, have no relationship with what is Spain's day-to-day reality.

  • As Media Matters for America has noted, The Wall Street Journal's Keith Johnson challenged a key premise of the study, writing "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." He went on to write: "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."

Additionally, Will wrote that Calzada's study was "supported by ... the Institute for Energy Research, for which this columnist has given a paid speech." As Media Matters has noted but Will did not disclose, the institute's funders include Exxon Mobil Corp. and the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, the president of which is an executive vice president of Koch Industries, whose subsidiaries "have been in the petroleum business since 1940."

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