07.28.2010 0

Union Bosses Seek Monopoly of Construction Industry Through Green Job Subsidies

By Kevin Mooney — So now it’s called a “clean energy jobs” bill, replete with government inducements for contractors operating on pre-approved “efficiency” projects. Concerns over global warming and/or climate change are so 2009 and are no longer in vogue.

A draft version of the anti-energy legislation Senate Democrats are expected to roll out next week omits politically unpopular “cap and trade” policies, but includes rebates under the “Home Star” and “Silver Star” programs that deserve careful scrutiny. Union bosses who have received very little legislative return on their substantial investments into the Democratic Party view green jobs as an angle into monopolizing the construction industry.

After losing out on “card check” and binding arbitration, the idea now is for congressional leaders to secure union favors through more obscure legislation that escapes media attention. For example, under Section 3003 of the pending anti-energy bill, “The Secretary of Energy, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),” are authorized “to create a Federal Rebate Processing System with a database and information technology system for submitting reimbursement claims by rebate aggregators (RAs).”

This part of the bill, which provides for the “Home Star Retrofit Rebate Program,” appears to create an opening for government subsidies. This is very much in step with President Obama’s rhetorical shift away from “overwhelming scientific evidence” in deference to clean energy initiatives that has been evident since January. Some explanation is in order.

As “climategate” continues to overwhelm the “overwhelming science,” the political class must adapt and adjusts its marketing techniques. So the rationale changes, but the motivation for expanded unionization of the construction sector remains in effect.

In the 2008 election cycle, labor union political action committees (PACS) contributed over $66 million dollars to congressional candidates with 92 percent of those contributions going to Democrats, according to OpenSecrets.org. With the mid-term elections now looming, labor leaders are going for broke.

But what is a green job?

Ben Lieberman, a senior policy analyst for energy and environmental policy with the Heritage Foundation, has explored this question in his research.

“Generally, jobs related to renewable energy sources, energy efficiency, battery-powered or other alternatively fueled vehicles, and public transportation comprise most of what are currently considered green jobs,” he has observed previously. “But there is no clear definition of a green job…The definition is further complicated by the fact that some jobs are only occasionally green. For example, workers who produce steel or cement are counted as having green jobs to the extent their products go into making wind turbines–but not when they go into coal-fired power plants… In truth, the definition of a green job is highly subjective and can depend every bit as much on fads and fashions and political correctness as on any objective criteria.”

When federal funds are thrown into the mix, the definition tends to become more elastic. Organized labor has made every effort to define “green jobs” in terms of positions held by workers that receive special green training through union-only apprenticeship programs, representatives with private industry have warned.

“Organized labor and certain special interest groups claim that only union apprenticeship programs can properly train workers to build green projects,” Stephen Worth, President and CEO of Worth and Company, told House members in testimony earlier this year. “However these claims are nothing more than an effort to monopolize the construction workforce on green building and other construction projects. Most green building techniques involve simple architectural changes or the use of environmentally friendly building materials, which requires workers to learn skills that can be taught through both union and nonunion training programs.”

But there is also good cause to question the economic feasibility of green jobs.

President Obama has in the past cited Spain as model for the clean energy economy of the future.  Not so much anymore in light of objective facts that complicate the administration’s policy ambitions. Gabriel Calzada, an economics professor at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Spain, has produced a new study that shows green jobs are mostly temporary, heavily subsidized and subtract away from economic performance.

The Institute for Energy Research (IER) has also published its own detailed assessment of green jobs that concludes government intrusion into the energy sector will most likely boost consumer prices.

“..It is highly questionable whether a government campaign to spur “green jobs” would have net economic benefits,” the IER report says. “Indeed, the distortionary impacts of government intrusion into energy markets could prematurely force business to abandon current production technologies for more expensive ones. Furthermore, there would likely be negative economic consequences from forcing higher-cost alternative energy sources upon the economy.”

Free market organizations that have organized effective and successful campaign against “cap and trade” regulations should make every effort to focus public attention on economically unsound political paybacks that sabotage the private sector and the American consumer.

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