Job Creation as a Marketing Strategy

Green energy busybodies have given up on science-based policy, opting instead to cloak their agenda in a job-creation campaign. One example is the 25 by 25 proposal that will appear on our Michigan ballot in November. It seeks to change our constitution, requiring utilities to use renewable energy sources – wind, solar, biomass, hydro – for 25 percent of our energy by 2025 (see story page 36). I've not read any scientific reports that justify the need for such public policy, nor how it could be accomplished, and at what cost, only varying predictions of how many jobs will be created as a result. The 25 by 25 initiative does have a nifty sound to it, though, as if it was created by agenda-promoting strategists instead of actual scientists and engineers.

If the campaign was say, 16 by 21 – 16 percent of our energy from renewable resources by 2021 – I might give it more serious consideration but, 25 by 25 is too tidy: it sounds like a new weekly goal set by the local high school track coach. In reality, it's much more serious: an amendment to alter our state constitution being sold as a simple, sensible plan to create jobs, reduce air pollution and of course, save lives. Have the professional environmental activists behind this scheme really consulted with scientists and engineers to answer the most basic questions?

For instance, how many windmills will be required to reach the 25 by 25 goal? Where will they be located? What will be the ratio of solar, wind, biomass, and hydro, and what will that be based on? Will local residents have any say in zoning for windmill farms, or will they be forced to accept one in their backyard as required by our constitution?

Energy providers are still working toward the 2008 mandate that requires energy provider to produce 10% of their energy portfolio from renewable resources by 2015. Part of Traverse City Light & Power's attempt to comply with that law was to build a biomass plant. That idea was shouted down by some residents who viewed it as an environmental negative. Local citizen input on locating windmills and biomass plants might not be as valued when there is a constitutional mandate and deadline staring us in the face. By the way, what happens if we violate the constitution and fail to reach "25 by 25?"

When former governor Jennifer Granholm signed the Clean Renewable and Efficient Energy Act in 2008, she claimed the renewable energy mandate would create 17,000 jobs and referred to it as, "the most important legislation to create jobs and diversify Michigan's economy that has crossed my desk." Perhaps the successful strategy to sell an environmental agenda as job-creating policy in 2008 has inspired leaders of the current 25 by 25 campaign.

Those 17,000 jobs never panned out according to journalist Tom Gantert, writing for Michigan Capitol Confidential. Using information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics he writes that Michigan, in 2008, had 4,256 jobs in the "power and communications systems construction" category, which includes solar and wind power construction. As of last year we had 3,728 jobs in that category, a 14 percent drop.

Now the 25 by 25 crowd claims their proposal would create over 74,000 new jobs. But that's based on a study from Michigan State University that calculated job years, not actual jobs. Job years is a statistic based on how many years an employee works at a job, so for one person working 20 years you get 20 job years, not 20 jobs.

Don't be fooled by phony claims of job creation. This is a proposal put forth by environmental activists who lack any scientific evidence to support the need for such a drastic mandate. While other states, like Michigan, have Renewable Portfolio Standards to experiment with renewable power, no other state has or is proposing a constitutional mandate requiring a random percentage of energy be renewable in a random timeframe (25 by 25).

Let's see if energy providers can hit the 10 percent renewable energy by the 2015 mandate, then evaluate and debate the next step in our legislature, out in the open, using science and facts, not amateurish marketing techniques. Or, we could start a new campaign: 99 percent renewable energy by 2099. That would probably create a lot of new jobs…in the public relations industry.