Home Climate Change The Gross Ignorance In The Rewiring America Jobs Report

The Gross Ignorance In The Rewiring America Jobs Report



Rewiring America is an organisation that wants to deal with climate change by electrifying everything in America. OK, deal with climate change, good idea, electrifying everything to do so maybe not. But certainly exploring the concept seems sensible.

Well, it’s sensible until we see what it is that they write about it. For they’ve failed the most basic of tests of their knowledge of economics. They’re claiming that jobs are a benefit of their schemes when all sensible people know that jobs are a cost.

Jobs are a cost, not a benefit.

And if you’re going to write about matters economic but get that bit wrong then you’er going to write some miserably bad economics.

It was the kid at Vox that alerted to the error although he too doesn’t recognise it:

A physicist, engineer, researcher, inventor, serial entrepreneur, and MacArthur “genius” grant winner, Griffith’s recent work spans two organizations. First, he is founder and chief scientist at Otherlab, an independent research and design lab that has mapped the energy economy.

And alongside Alex Laskey, co-founder of Opower, he recently started Rewiring America, which will develop and advocate for policies to rapidly decarbonize the US through electrification. (The organization is going to release a book called — be still my heart — Electrify Everything.)

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if geniuses grasped the basics? So, here’s the report they’ve done on jobs:

Mobilizing for a zero carbon America:
Jobs, jobs, jobs, and more jobs

We might be able to take that as their being in favour of more jobs, eh?

Based on an extensive industrial and engineering analysis, our new report demonstrates that an aggressive national commitment to electrify all aspects of our economy would create up to 25 million good-paying American jobs over the next 15 years and 5 million sustained jobs by mid-century. This is the first analysis of the job opportunities that would result from a rapid and total decarbonization of the economy as a whole.

Yep, they’re in favour of these more jobs. They’re claiming them as a benefit rather than the cost they actually are.

Increasing employment under the transition to a zero–carbon is driven by the requirement
for more labor in manufacturing, installation, and maintenance of renewables than their
counterpart fossil fuel technologies. It takes more people to install and keep a wind farm
running than it does to drill a well and keep it pumping for the same amount of energy over
time. Renewables get their fuels for free, whereas fossil fuels cost money. It takes more labor
and maintenance to access those free renewable fuels.

Yep, more labour intensive methods of production are a good idea.


Jobs are a cost not a benefit of doing something.

Clearly a job is a cost to the person doing it. That’s why they demand wages for having to do it – their benefit. Equally, all like having an income so as to be able to consume and going to work is the cost of having that income to be able to consume. For employers the contention that a jobs is a cost should not be too hard to understand – they do pay out cash for them. Finally, for society as a whole a job is a cost.

We live in a universe of scarce resources. Human labour is one such scarce resource. We can test this – find how may people will come mow your lawn for free. None is it? Then that’s some job that can be done by human labour which the human labour is scarce to do. Now add paying someone to do it, plenty of candidates. Great, we’ve just shown that the job of getting the lawn mown is a cost to both you and the person doing it.

If we have a scarce resource then we have opportunity costs. If someone is now doing this thing then they can’t be doing that other. The cost of our doing the first thing is therefore the second thing not being done. When Joe Biden became VP he could not be a Senator – the cost of Joe being VP was his not being a Senator.

So, we’re going to put 25 million people to work on green stuff, this is a cost of doing all that green stuff. Sure, it might be the best thing we can do with all of that labour. I’m sure happy with the idea of dealing with climate change once and for all. But even if that’s all true it is still also true that the labour of 25 million people is a cost of this scheme, not a benefit of it.

But how much of a cost is it?

And then this:

So, if we send 25 million people off to dig ditches in the Glorious Green New Deal Mines then we’ve just taken away all the labour that the entirety of the American industrial economy – goods producing, which is “production” in the terminology, meaning construction, mining and manufacturing.

Actually, it’s all that labour plus all the Federal government and the entire education system. Sure, that latter will mean all the Marxists in the country are now employed with pick and shovel which we might take to be a benefit but it is still obviously a cost, right?

And when we’ve done all that build out then we can have manufacturing again but we still lose the Feds and K12. Still good on that score then.

The cost of having 25 million people working on the Green New Deal is the death – for real this time – of American manufacturing. Although of course it won’t be quite like that, some will come from there, some others from K12, some from tending bar, some from being diversity advisers. Meaning that the cost of the Green New Deal’s labour demands is a less educated, thirstier and more racist country. For we really do, if we go send 15% of the current labour force off to the Green gulag, end up with 15% less of the labour force to do all the other things we like and desire.

Because jobs are a cost of doing something, not a benefit.

Oh, and no, we can’t just go send the coal miners to do this. The 25 million jobs is on top of the current employment in the energy system. The report specifies this.

So, we’re left with our folks advertising the glory of their scheme by promoting how expensive it is. Dunno really, perhaps the epithet “genius” along with the grants so named should go to people who have a clue? Or is it really that difficult to understand that jobs are a cost, not a benefit?



  1. Many of the MacArthur awards have gone to charlatans, political poseurs and activists. Like the Nobel “Peace Prize”, thinking people take it all with a dose of salt.

  2. And that’s before getting to the engineering madness of converting natural energy into motion (losses) conveting motion into electricity (losses) transmitting electricity along wires (losses) converting electricity back into notion or heat (losses), instead of just pushing gas though loads of pipes, and converting it into heat at one single point at the point of use.

  3. I think you see this sort of article because it appeals to a person who sees their green job as sitting in a bright, clean airconditioned office, waving their arms about & thinking green thoughts. If you told them it would consist of being 250 ft up in a cradle bolting blades on a windmill in driving rain they’d be in urgent need of a change of underwear.

  4. ‘… OK, deal with climate change, good idea…’

    Is it? Why?

    How do we distinguish between ‘climate change’ caused by Man (bad) and natural climate change which would happen anyway (presumably ‘good’) absent Man’s presence on Earth, since it is unknown what degree of climate change is caused by Man (if any) and how much is natural?

    So whilst we are ‘dealing’ with climate change and ‘stopping it’ we cannot know how much to ‘stop’ or ‘deal’ with, whether we are overall doing harm or good.

    Only a fool recommends proceeding in ignorance based purely on unsupported assertions and the precautionary principle whilst assuming the cost of the precaution is zero and with unknown outcome.

  5. You say “Jobs are a cost, not a benefit.”, but that’s not true. Jobs *have* a cost – not *are* a cost. Jobs also *have* a benefit. If the benefit is greater than the cost it’s a worthwhile job – otherwise it isn’t.

    In some cases, the cost is much lower than it appears – for example, where the employer is the state and would have to pay people unemployment benefits if they were not working – the cost of their salary is only the difference between it and the benefits. And in that case there may be other advantages. People get bored easily, so they find something to do when unemloyed. If you’re lucky they become a world-famous author, but they may instead take to recreational drugs or violence and theft. So to keep repeating that jobs are a cost is to show you don’t really understand the world.

    In the case of the USA wanting something that requires lots of labour – well the world is still full of huddled masses: all that it takes is the intelligence to let them in. If you did, then there would be plenty people to mow your lawn extremely cheaply.

    @John B – all climate change is bad. We arrange our lives by how things are now, so change is usually for the worse. For example, if you build a house on the coast, rising sea levels and erosion can destroy it, but falling sea levels or the appearance of new land could also spoil your nice sea view. Similarly, we plant crops where they currently grow well, so any change is unlikely to be an improvement. The greens would probably claim that anthropogenic climate change is significantly worse than natural because it is much faster. If the ideal spot for your crops moves a metre every year, then you don’t care because you’ll be long dead before it make much of a difference to you. It’s clear that there is a problem, but it’s not clear to me that their proposed solutions are safe and effective.

  6. Job creation is cool. That’s what an economy does. Job creation by politicians is not always kosher, at full employment. First they propose to redistribute jobs between industries because superior wisdom doncha know. Second the money to pay the workers has to come from us the proles who would otherwise have spent it on consumer goodies like TV sets and Gucci handbags and Walmart, which may or may not have created extra jobs there depending on their level of automation, but those extra taxes mean that we the proles get to consume less and our lives are a tad less rosy.

    When there is not full employment, the starving masses do not have other more productive and better paying jobs to turn to. They are sitting at home picking their noses and, if they are lucky to be living in a welfare state with a safety net, they are collecting taxpayer-funded unemployment benefits. But the perpetual fallacy in the jobs-are-a-cost argument is that the unwashed public do not cry out for job creation by politicians when there is full employment. However, our superior wisdom model politicians will always cite job creation as a benefit of a well-lobbied booddoggle, whether or not there is full employment, because when you cut and paste the standard new-project-speak press release it’s already there and very difficult to edit out.

    So therefore and thusly politicians should greatly be encouraged to create jobs at times of stress, but these must not be politician-paid jobs. They must be created by private industry incentivised by changes in the regulatory and tax regimes.

  7. “Jobs are a cost, not a benefit.”

    A very myopic view. Renewables can deliver cheaper power and more employment opportunities for people who need employment. Cost or benefit is sometimes a matter of perspective. You are certainly not being objective in this article. It’s reads like a smug rant not an argument. Clearly you don’t care about full employment but guess what, other people do, and that doesn’t make you right and them wrong.

    • My argument is not against renewables. Nor is it against people having jobs.

      Rather, it’s people shouting that “Look at all the jobs my plan makes!” as if it’s a benefit, not a cost.

    • Renewables can deliver cheaper power if you limit yourself to, mostly small, local, hydroelectric schemes and solar panels with some modest storage batteries for off-grid farmhouses or villages in the tropics. .But not for UK grid. Right now more of UK electricity demand is being supplied by imports from the continent than by solar, wind and hydro combined (and more by CCGT than all else combined). CCGT followed by British nuclear followed by burning wood followed by French nuclear followed by wind.
      Wind and solar are heavily subsidised and utterly unreliable so you need 100% back-up at vast capital cost: you have to build just as many CCGT stations no matter how many windfarms you build. The variations in windpower average for a day so far this year extend to a ratio of 144:1 – and that’s the daily average! Including variation within a day would give you well over 1000 to 1 between peaks and troughs. So all the capital cost of a windfarm is an addition to the cost of nuclear, CCGT, hydro etc and *none* of it is a substitution for reliable producers. Just to add annoyance the supply of energy from wind seems to be negatively correlated with demand.
      Solar is a bit better in that supply is positively correlated with demand but it is, of course, zero every nught and much lower in winter when demand is generally higher so does very little to reduce the need to build conventional power stations.
      Storage could help a little to solve the problem of unreliability – but not much. Pumped hydro is excellent but we don’t have enough of it and there are not enough sites in the UK where we could build new pumped Hydro generators. When you’ve found a solution to the problems of H2 to let us know but currently the cost of safe storage of a few tonnes of H2 exceeds the value of the electricity that it would produce.
      NB Norway has economic hydroelectricity (and so do a few other places), but UK hydro was not created to be economic
      NB 2 Burning Biomass is not renewable and is even worse for global warming than producing the same amount of electricity from hard coal.


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