Wow! Illinois has over 123,000 people working clean energy jobs. At least that’s what the industry claims in its never-ending campaign for taxpayer subsidies and mandates.

But wait. Another ad campaign the industry is running in Illinois should make you more than suspicious. “Thousands of Illinoisans working in wind and solar energy are facing a critical deadline that needs a legislative fix…. Without an expansion of the Renewable Portfolio Standard, wind and solar businesses will be forced to lay off employees and move on to states with more stable markets,” it says.

In other words, the government better keep the help coming or layoffs are on the way.

What’s going on? It’s about temporary jobs versus permanent jobs, and the renewable energy industry needs to get its story straight. Most jobs in the industry undoubtedly are for installation. Once the wind turbines, solar panels, smart grid equipment and energy efficiency modifications are in place much of the work will be gone. The industry loves the word “sustainable,” except when it comes to their own employment claims.

I don’t know exactly what portion of jobs in the industry are temporary installation work because I’ve never found it broken out in the industry studies, which I wouldn’t trust anyway. Undoubtedly, however, the lion’s share of the employment won’t last. Let’s hope so. If it takes 123,000 people to keep things running after all the taxpayer subsidized equipment and installation, that hardly sounds efficient.

The broader lesson is always to ask, when you hear job claims, “temporary or permanent?”  Industries dependent on government and politicians looking for pork or contributions routinely justify their positions with employment claims. That’s particularly true in construction, transportation and infrastructure. Most work there is project-based and temporary. Politicians ignore the distinction.

But the value of temporary work is far less than genuinely sustainable employment. Sustainable employment results from efficiency and markets, not the government picking winners and losers at your expense.

Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.



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Apparently the only thing sustainable about sustainable energy is hot air.

Red Raspberry

And usually these are traveling installers from out of state.