February 26, 2024

Republicans Attack on Handling of Stimulus Money and Green Jobs

“A green jobs fueled recovery is a theory, and is yet unproven,” declared the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, Darrell Issa, Republican of California. “There is a lot more green, in the way of cash, and a lot less energy and jobs than anticipated.”

The title of the hearing was, “How Obama’s Green Energy Agenda is Killing Jobs,” a title that one Democratic member, Mike Quigley, Democrat of Illinois, complained was a “raw partisan assertion that presupposes the answer.”

But in between rounds of jousting, the hearing sometimes touched on some of the difficulties of defining and measuring green jobs. Keith Hall, the director of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which got money last year to start counting green jobs, testified that companies that produce both “green and nongreen outputs” had problems counting the green jobs.

Republican members of the committee and the Democratic witnesses, including Hilda L. Solis, the Secretary of Labor, tangled on whether, for example, a worker who was trained to drive a hybrid bus qualified as holding a green job.

“What makes driving a hybrid bus a green job and driving another bus that’s not a hybrid bus not a green job?” asked Connie Mack, Republican of Florida. “Driving a bus is driving a bus, right?”

Ms. Solis replied, “the vehicles that are built there are green buses, they are fuel efficient.”

Mr. Mack replied, “but this is the bus driver. If I’m sitting in a chair that was made out of green material, does that make my job green?”

But further discussion clarified that the driver of the ordinary bus also had a “green job,” because all mass-transit workers fit the definition of a green job as they provided “services that benefit the environment.”

Ms. Solis reviewed the status of a $500 million program financed under the stimulus bill to train workers for green jobs. About 52,000 people have been trained and the total will reach 96,000, she said.

But Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah, pointed out that most of those trained already had jobs (“incumbent workers,” the government calls them) and that only about 6,200 had gotten jobs classified as green, at a cost of roughly $80,000 per job. And some of the jobs, he said, were in overhead line construction and automotive technologies. “These don’t sound quite as green,” he said.

Ms. Solis said giving new skills to people who already had jobs would help them keep their jobs and earn more money. She said in testimony that the country must “out-educate, out-innovate, and out-build our global competitors.”

Like the Obama administration, the committee cited a close link between carbon dioxide emissions and economic health, but in the opposite direction. While President Obama has warned about the long-term threat of global warming and the need to wean the nation from fossil fuels, the committee’s report said, “by sacrificing domestic carbon-based resources upon the altar of an ill-fated “green energy” experiment, the president has put U.S. economic security in jeopardy and wasted billions in taxpayer money at a time when our fiscal health is in peril.”

But Elijah E. Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said that there was “not one scintilla of evidence” that green policies had cost any jobs.

The Obama administration was on the defensive well before the hearing began. It posted a video on the Energy Department’s Web site, energy.gov, of a newly hired worker in a Michigan battery factory, built in part with a government grant. The worker, a middle-aged woman in safety glasses and a hair net and dressed in industrial coveralls, gets teary as she says, “it took a long time” to get a new job.  Also on the page is a map showing where stimulus money was spent in search of a green economy.

The committee’s Democratic minority circulated an article from Bloomberg News that quoted from two letters Mr. Issa wrote to the energy secretary, urging support for an electric car manufacturer and a battery manufacturer in his district. He wrote that the battery plant would create a “green collar” work force.

After the hearing, Mr. Issa said, “members of Congress will always ask for money from whatever pot to help their constituents.” But he had not asked for any shortcuts in the competition to find the best place for federal dollars, he said. Solyndra, he and other Republicans maintain, was chosen for the loan for political reasons.

Mr. Issa complained that “green jobs” effort was “a political rallying cry aimed to unite environmentalists and union leaders” to promote an ideological agenda.

“This would be O.K. if it produced the jobs, but it didn’t,” he said.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is supposed to produce a report on that question in March.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=c2662b72340420406a1dbe48751da5d6

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