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Commentary: Study on “Clean” Jobs Calls For Expanded Government Role

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Brookings Institute report advocates more government spending and new bank to prop up industry

A new study issued by the Brookings Institute evaluating the number of “clean jobs” on the local, state,  and national level has determined that New Orleans and Louisiana lag behind in the growth of this industry.

Titled ‘Sizing the Clean Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment,’ the report focuses on the development of “clean jobs” on all three regional levels. According to the Brookings Institute, a “clean job” is “any economic activity measured in terms of establishment of jobs that produce goods and services with an environmental benefit. “ This definition is further broken down into categories of renewable energy, energy efficiency, green house gas reduction, agriculture, and education.

According to the results, metropolitan New Orleans ranks 67th overall with 7,298 clean jobs, while Louisiana ranks 30th with 28,673. Nationwide, the report found 2.7 million jobs count as “clean jobs.”

Unfortunately, the study falls into the misguided rubric that government largesse is the sole engine for spurring job creation, while ignoring the notable private investment within our area. The recommendations for promoting clean energy growth by Brooking’s Bruce Katz are fallacious. He advocates a clean energy standard, $16 billion in annual clean energy research and development, tax provisions, and a “green bank” to provide financing within the industry.

With government spending in the crosshairs of politicians, it is unreasonable for the federal government to needlessly increase outlays for research which can, and is, financed privately, especially when the stimulus plan allocated an excessive amount for this very purpose. Likewise, various think tanks have repeatedly expounded on the job-killing implications and costs of a broadly imposed energy standard.

The notion of a separate, federally-created bank for green industries is unacceptable to anyone who has witnessed the trajectory of existing government administered banks. Aside from an overreach of government, federally administered entities lack the market discipline and accountability which private industries should have. This echoes the distortion of the housing market under Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac, but sensible Americans have no wish to see another government-subsidized industry implode at massive cost to taxpayers.

What is overlooked are the private efforts to promote clean jobs and energy in New Orleans as reported by the Times-Picayune. New Orleans has recently made strides towards becoming an entrepreneurial hub, which is visible in the collaborative venture between the Greater New Orleans Foundation and the Idea Village to provide a grant towards decontaminating ground water.

These are the initiatives which are necessary to spur job creation and innovation in this industry. The market should determine the legitimacy of these jobs, not an agenda-driven government.

Jamison Beuerman is a contributing writer and policy analyst at the Pelican Institute for Public Policy. He can be contacted via email at jbeuerman@pelicaninstitute.org or followed on twitter @jbeuerman.

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