I would never admit to posting about an inconsequential topic. Except this time.
A right wing group called EnergyCitizens.org (FreedomWorks is among the sponsors) paid for a full page ad in the Wednesday Post-Dispatch. It showed a photo of a factory worker with “2 MILLION JOBS LOST” emblazoned across his chest. The caption read “Another UNFORTUNATE TRUTH about Congress’s climate bill” and the text said:
As Congress considers new climate legislation, Americans aren’t getting the whole truth. A recent study found the recent House-passed bill could cost two million American jobs.
America is in the middle of a harsh recession. Think about the impact of two million jobs lost. Yet another unfortunate truth about Congress’s climate bill.
Learn more at EnergyCitizens.org.
The ad is a little lean on the proof for that claim, to say the least, and it directly contradicts the Waxman and Markey assertion that green energy changes in our economy will create 1.7 million jobs. You’re probably inclined to trust the Democratic congressmen rather than Dick Armey et.al. But not so fast. PolitiFact.com and FactCheck.org, relying on analysis from two unbiased government agencies, have investigated these contradictory claims and arrived at basically the same conclusion.
It’s true that limiting carbon emissions would create some jobs – building wind turbines or insulating homes and businesses, for example. But it’s equally true that raising the cost of burning coal and oil would act as a drag on the entire economy, slowing down job creation in other industries.
According to projections by the Energy Information Administration and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the net effect of the House cap-and-trade bill will likely be to slow future job growth. Using 11 different possible future scenarios, EIA projects that future job growth might be constrained by something between 388,000 (under the most optimistic assumptions) and 2.3 million (assuming everything goes badly) 20 years from now. CBO also says employment would likely be lower than it would without the legislation – but only “a little.”
In other words, the EIA analysis contradicts Waxman and Markey’s claim that “[t]his landmark bill will revitalize our economy by creating millions of new jobs.” The two agency reports are none too flattering for the Democrats, but neither agency heaped praise on the conservatives either.
The EIA figures that there might be 2.3 million fewer jobs in 2030 if the Waxman-Markey bill went into effect, but things went badly wrong; that amounts to 1.4 percent fewer jobs than under the no-change-in-law-or-policy baseline. Specifically, this worst-case scenario assumes that government officials would be “severely limited” in implementing a key cost-saving feature of the bill known as “international offsets.” These are supposed to allow U.S. companies to avoid having to reduce their own carbon emissions by paying others to plant trees or avoid deforestation in developing countries, for example. This worst-case future also assumes that nuclear power and “clean coal” technologies don’t advance any faster than currently projected.
But this everything-goes-wrong analysis was only one of 11 different possibilities. And EIA said that while it cannot say how probable any of them are, “both theory and common sense suggest that cases that reflect an unbroken chain of either failures or successes in a series of independent factors are inherently less likely than cases that do not assume that everything goes either wrong or right.”
Basically then, nobody knows whose prediction will turn out to be most accurate.
You may be wondering why I began by saying that this topic is inconsequential. The answer is that, since there’s no way to know who’s right about this issue, it makes little sense to even bring it up. But the reason to do so is precisely that it doesn’t matter who’s right.
Because if human beings don’t get carbon emissions under control, changing weather patterns will wreak such havoc on the global economy that any jobs lost from cap and trade will be … inconsequential.