Media conservatives continue to push widely disputed Spanish study on green jobs

››› ››› LILY YAN

Conservatives in the media have continued to cite the findings of a widely disputed study by a Spanish economist to assert or suggest that the United States will lose two jobs for every one green job created if the American Clean Energy and Security Act passes.

In recent days, conservatives in the media have continued to cite the findings of a widely disputed study, reportedly supported by an oil industry-funded think tank and rejected by the Spanish government, to assert or suggest that the United States will, in the words of Fox News' Glenn Beck, lose "2.2 jobs for every one green job created" if the American Clean Energy and Security Act passes.

The study, by Gabriel Calzada Álvarez, stated: "[W]e find that for every renewable energy job that the State manages to finance, Spain's experience cited by President Obama as a model reveals with high confidence, by two different methods, that the U.S. should expect a loss of at least 2.2 jobs on average, or about 9 jobs lost for every 4 created, to which we have to add those jobs that non-subsidized investments with the same resources would have created." It added:

Therefore, while it is not possible to directly translate Spain's experience with exactitude to claim that the U.S. would lose at least 6.6 million to 11 million jobs, as a direct consequence were it to actually create 3 to 5 million "green jobs" as promised (in addition to the jobs lost due to the opportunity cost of private capital employed in renewable energy), the study clearly reveals the tendency that the U.S. should expect such an outcome.

Conservatives in the media who have cited job losses of more than two jobs for every green job created or referred to Spain's purported loss of jobs as a result of its climate policy include:

  • Beck, who, on the June 26 edition of his Fox News show, in claiming that "[w]hile we're busy marching toward socialism, the rest of the world is running away from it because they've tried it already," asserted of the climate legislation: "It's already a complete failure in Spain, where it has resulted -- listen to this -- where it has resulted in 18.1 percent unemployment, more than double Europe's average." He added: "They are losing 2.2 jobs for every one green job created."
  • Wall Street Journal columnist Stephen Moore, who claimed on the June 27 edition of CNN's Your Money, "[W]hat happened in Europe is for every green job they created, they lost two jobs in manufacturing." Host Ali Velshi later repeated Moore's assertion, stating: "Well, you'll create jobs in alternative energy, but Stephen says, in Europe, for every one they created for green energy, they lost two."
  • Brian Kilmeade of Fox News' Fox & Friends, who stated during an interview with White House coordinator of energy and climate policy Carol Browner: "Now, a lot of people say if you want to know how this is going to work, look at Spain. They did this, and their unemployment's now 20 percent and the jobs they created are mostly temporary."

As Media Matters for America has documented, Fox News Supreme Court reporter Shannon Bream touted the study on several Fox News programs in April, and Washington Post columnist George Will discussed Calzada's study in a June 25 column. However, the study has been widely disputed:

  • In a May 20 letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), Teresa Ribera Rodríguez, 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."

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 of the Calzada's figures (unknown source). According to data of the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Trade and of the wind power business association, the wind power sector 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 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." ISTAS 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.

  • The Wall Street Journal's Keith Johnson also challenged a key premise of the study, writing that "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."

From the June 26 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: This bill is a gateway bill. It will be used as a justification to regulate every industry, product, every part of your life that the government can get their grimy little fingers on. Politicians will get rich. The government will get more power and more control.

Businesses are just going to pass on the cost. It's not -- I'm sorry, but businesses are mostly small businesspeople. They don't look like the monopoly guy.

There's only, like -- really, one loser, and that is you, the consumer, because you don't have a lobbying arm. The worst is we aren't breaking any new ground here. While we're busy marching toward socialism, the rest of the world is running away from it because they've tried it already.

Australia is killing their carbon tax proposals. It's already a complete failure in Spain, where it has resulted -- listen to this -- where it has resulted in 18.1 percent unemployment, more than double Europe's average. They are losing 2.2 jobs for every one green job created.

From the June 27 edition of CNN's Your Money:

MOORE: The problem with that, Ali, is that, you know, you can't solve global warming by having one country reduce its emissions, because the likely effect that almost all economic studies show is that as our manufacturing declines, because we have this new tax, a lot of those jobs and those plants will move overseas.

And we know that's the case because that's what's happening in Europe now. Remember, they're a --

VELSHI: So, let me just -- let me just clarify. You mean that those --

MOORE: -- they're a couple years ahead of us on this, and we're seeing a lot of the union workers --

VELSHI: Yeah.

MOORE: -- in places like Britain and Europe really saying, "Wait a minute, why are we doing this? We're losing all our jobs."

VELSHI: So, you're saying that those industries that are polluting are emitting more than the limits will allow them to, will move to jurisdictions or countries that don't have --

MOORE: That's right.

VELSHI: -- those rules. Is that what you're saying?

MOORE: Yeah -- to India and stuff.

VELSHI: Howard, what's --

MOORE: Yeah.

VELSHI: Howard?

HOWARD GOULD (co-founder of the Clean Economy Network): Well, I think you can address that in a couple of ways. I mean, I think the big emitters right here are the coal producers. You can't go overseas necessarily and dig coal that actually is here in the United States for one. So I think that that covers that.

Also, there's jobs being created out of this whole bill. I mean, you're talking about people now getting involved in solar, wind, hydro, geothermal -- so, there are jobs being created.

Also, now, there's talk about if you manufacture something that is high intensity in terms of its emission of CO2 and they send it -- and you send it overseas, they'll be taxed bringing it back into the United States. So, you're going to pay the tax either way.

MOORE: Wow. That's great protectionism. I don't want to trade --

VELSHI: Stephen, what's the solution? If you guys are both agreeing that, look, it's a, you know, dicey time to be asking people to pay more money for anything, Stephen, are you disagreeing that we need to deal with this at all or we need to deal with it and make sure every country is part of it or do we just not deal with this?

MOORE: I think we've got such a major economic crisis on our hands right now, Ali, this is the absolute worst time to be talking about this. I mean, we've got nine-and-a-half percent unemployment. We know other countries are going to do this; that's why they want the United States to go first. We've got to concentrate on getting jobs and manufacturing back and that's not going to happen with higher energy prices.

VELSHI: Will this, Stephen, will this stimulate jobs in alternative energy --

MOORE: Yeah.

VELSHI: -- that the president keeps talking about?

MOORE: Yeah, it will. But the -- what happened in Europe is for every green job they created, they lost two jobs in manufacturing.

VELSHI: Howard, why is -- do you think that might happen here?

GOULD: Do I think we're going to lose jobs on this?

VELSHI: Well, you'll create jobs in alternative energy, but Stephen says, in Europe, for every one they created for green energy, they lost two.

GOULD: Well, I don't know that -- I -- you know, I tend to agree with Stephen in some ways. I don't know that Europe is exactly the best model for looking at this. It's kind of like the cell phone system that operates here in the United States. We have the worst one because we were the first ones to build it. Everybody else has got a better one.

They were the first ones to build it. The system is not perfect. There are a lot of mistakes, and I think we're correcting a lot of those mistakes, and I think we're going to come out on top on this one.

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