The Jobs Fallacy
A number of people turned out in Columbia on Monday morning to call on Congress to pass a clean energy bill, which the activists claimed would create 36,000 jobs in Missouri. That sounds nice enough, but it would actually be a bad thing. Jobs are not goods; they are what people do to pay for goods. If people want work to do, they can come over to my apartment, and I can have them clean the place, cook meals, and start running errands for me. I’m not actually willing to pay more than, say, $5 an hour for those services, but it would be a job.
What these activists are saying is that with a clean energy bill, we will get the same amount of energy, but it will take 36,000 more workers to create it, which means much higher energy costs. An economy is more efficient when it employs fewer resources (e.g., energy, labor, and steel) to make the same amount of a good or service, but the economic argument these activists are trying to advance is that we can get rich by doing less with more.
There are environmental arguments for supporting clean energy, and some of those may have merit. If you want to advance those arguments, there is a productive discussion to be had, but this jobs argument is completely specious and should be buried once and for all.