David Brooks' myth-ridden flip-flop on green jobs
Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks has decided to double down on his paper’s widely debunked slam of green jobs with his own piece of nonsense, “Where the Jobs Aren’t.” Both articles chose to ignore “explosive growth” documented in the sector by a major Brookings report.
Brooks’ piece is, in some respects, even worse, since just last year he was championing green jobs. Here is what he wrote in January 2010 after a panel discussion that included business executives:
I was once again reminded how many business and investment types are thinking quite practically and capitalistically about green, job-creating technologies. For us Hamiltonian conservatives who believe in internal improvements, energy and infrastructure are obviously the two big areas where we should be investing.
Now, less than two years later, he writes:
In his 2008 convention speech, Barack Obama promised to create 5 million green economy jobs. The U.S. Conference of Mayors estimated in April 2009 that green jobs could account for 10 percent of new job growth over the next 30 years.
Alas, it was not to be. The gigantic public investments in green energy may be stimulating innovation and helping the environment. But they are not evidence that the government knows how to create private-sector jobs.
Recently, Aaron Glantz reported in The Times on some of the disappointments.
A truly head-exploding flip-flop.
First, again, the clean energy economy has seen explosive growth since 2003, according to Brookings. From 2008 to 2009, the entire broadly-defined clean economy grew 8.3 percent — much faster than the whole economy — thanks in part to the stimulus. And as we recently reported, America actually exports almost $2 billion of solar products:
Second, Brooks is saying that a little more than two years into the Conference of Mayors’ 30-year prediction, we know they are wrong. As I wrote of Glantz’s piece: Imagine if, in 1963, two years after JFK’s famous speech to Congress, Brooks had run a story that said, “Space program fails to live up to promise. It was not to be.”
Third, at least Glantz had the decency to mention that Obama promised to create those 5 million green economy jobs “over 10 years”! And, of course, Obama’s promise was based on the passage of a climate and clean-energy jobs bill that Brooks’ conservative buddies in the Senate killed.
You can’t shoot the horse and then blame the rider for losing.
And this is where we get to Brooks’ hypocrisy.
In a 2005 piece on conservative intellectual exhaustion, “Running Out of Steam,” he asserted, “Global warming is real (conservatives secretly know this).”
Then, in the 2010 piece I excerpted above, he writes:
I totally accept the scientific authorities who say that global warming is real and that it is manmade …
I totally buy the argument that we need to set a cap on carbon emissions …
… if you’re willing to give me nuclear power, I’m willing to follow Lindsey Graham’s lead and do a little bit on the cap-and-trade bill, which is an imperfect piece of legislation, God knows, but still probably good for the country.
Let’s be clear here. The reason progressives know that “in the future, the only jobs left will be green” is because we know that getting off of fossil fuels is both inevitable and urgent. The whole point of the climate bill that Brooks supported just one year ago was to substantially replace fossil fuels in four decades with energy-efficient and low-carbon technologies (including nuclear power, which received a significant boost in the bill).
Now why, precisely, is Brooks claiming to accept the science of global warming, the need to cap emissions and set a price, and the need to invest heavily in low-carbon energy and infrastructure if he himself doesn’t understand the inevitability of it all? The world is going to make this transition either in the near term or the medium term. The only difference between the two is that if we do it in the near term, we have a far better chance of averting catastrophic global warming — and if we lead the way on clean energy, then we will be the ones creating the jobs manufacturing the low-carbon technologies the world will be deploying at an ever-accelerating rate.
Brooks’ piece today suggests that he either never believed what he wrote last year, or he never understood it.
There are so many myths in Brooks’ article I can’t respond to them all in one piece, but let me end with one that appears to be entering the right-wing talking point Hall of Shame:
There’s a wealth of other evidence to suggest that the green economy will not be a short-term jobs machine. According to Investor’s Business Daily, executives at Johnson Controls turned $300 million in green technology grants into 150 jobs — that’s $2 million per job.
Brooks must know that Investor’s Business Daily makes the Wall Street Journal editorial page look like NPR. It is the only consistently less credible source of business news than Fox.
Climate Progress debunked that $2 million figure last month. Read the full debunking here if you need reminding.