We made a big deal a couple weeks ago about an in-depth analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis throwing cold water on the idea that "green jobs" will drive the new economy.
Among its points the Fed waived off a Minnesota 2020 report claiming that if done right, the wind industry "can create thousands of jobs, [and] revive the economic base of many Minnesota communities hit hard by the recession."
It doesn't work that way, Fed writer Ron Wirtz wrote: "As a job creator, wind power doesn't pack much punch...."
Xcel Energy has the most wind-generated power of any utility in the country, yet "it's really hard to quantify" the effect of the green movement specifically on company employment, said Beth Chacone, environmental policy manager for Xcel. "I know [the green economy] gets a lot of press, but we're not sure there is job creation."
The Fed's analysis became all too real tonight.
The Star Tribune reports that wind-turbine maker Suzlon Group is laying off its remaining 110 workers at its Pipestone plant "because the once-booming U.S. wind energy market has lost headway."
Last week, the American Wind Energy Association acknowledged last quarter was the worst since 2007 for wind energy installations. "Year-to-date installations stood at 1,634 MW, down 72 percent versus 2009, and the lowest level since 2006. In 2010, wind projects in the U.S. are being installed at half the rate as in Europe, and a third of the rate as in China."
If the economy is recovering and green jobs and clean energy are our future, then a turbine plant in Pipestone ought to be adding jobs. Instead, the plant is idled.
As we noted after reading the Fed analysis, Minnesota policy makers need to take a serious look at the Green Jobs push. Money's getting spent to retrain people hurt in the recession for jobs that sound great but might not be there.
Yet, the competition among cities and states to spend money to attract green jobs is picking up speed. The Twin Cities "Thinc.GreenMSP" effort is "an unprecedented economic-development partnership between the two cities to retain, grow and attract green-manufacturing businesses and jobs" in the metro area.
The shutdown of a southwest Minnesota wind turbine plant and the Minneapolis Fed's analysis ought to force a serious discussion about whether the Green Jobs promise is worth the hype.
Paul, your story misses the forest for the trees. The fate of clean energy projects has relied on leveling the playing field with heavily subsidized fossil fuels like coal and oil. Our energy trade deficit is approximately $1 billion every day, yet Congress has continued to shovel huge subsidies at fossil fuels.
Specifically, wind projects have slowed down due to: 1) regulatory challenges such as accessing the grid - barriers which are too easily knocked down for subsidized fossil fuel plants; 2) credit challenges that all industries are facing; and 3) inaction in the United State Senate, where almost a half a billion dollars was spent by fossil fuel advocates and oil tycoons to kill even a moderate clean energy bill that did not include cap-and-trade or any carbon tax.
The Koch brothers and other billionaire oil tycoons will receive $51 billion in taxpayer subsidies in 2011. It's no wonder that a much smaller (but higher employment potential) industry without the resources to make massive contributions and manipulative ad campaigns would have a hard time competing.
There's no "hype" about these jobs in Pipestone. Just the reality that the Koch Brothers' funded "tea party" crusade, with the complicity of GOP elected officials, will continue to mean job losses in Minnesota and elsewhere. China and India are quite happy to beat us to the punch, where the clean energy budgets outpace even their military budgets.
When you write a story about the massive subsidies for fossil fuels, maybe we'll spark a fair and level conversation. This story doesn't do it, Paul - and ignores the thousands of Minnesotans working in clean energy jobs today, most of them in energy efficiency and conservation strategies. It also ignores the corporations working to kill a 21st-energy policy so they can keep feeding at the trough of tax dollars they funnel into their billionaire's estates.
Paul, see the article from the Argus Leader that I linked to in my latest "People in the Know" enrty in Minnesota Today.
It suggests a "Minnesota Model" for wind energy that mirrors the ethanol industry in the state, i.e. smaller, locally-owned wind farms in leu of the giant, invester-owned wind operations.
In the ethanol industy, some of the large, corporate-run ethanol plants like the big VeraSun plant in Welcome, MN were a bust, while small, farmer-owned plants like Al-Corn and Chippewa Valley Ethanol have grown into a $ billion industry in the state.
The issue of subsidies aside, it seems that "smaller is better" when it comes to green energy in the state. I would recommend talking to David Morris of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance for some hard stats on what I am talking about (he's a great interview, BTW).
Bottom line: When a Minnesota-owned company starts making wind turbines, then the green economy is really underway. An firm from India that pays poor wages to bused-in workers in SW MN (reverse outsourcing?) to make turbine blades is not really the benchmark of the growth of green jobs in this country.
I have to disagree with the basis of the article. Here in the UK, there is significant investment in offshore wind energy and also in other renewables.
I suggest the US problem is deep seated culturally and due to a lack of interest to change.
In fact there will be a shortage of power industry workers in the UK due to retirements. One college has set up as special course to train wind turbine workers.
To State Rep. Jeremy Kalin,
Oh no! The Tea Partiers are coming, the Tea Partiers are coming.
How about we end all subsidies for all special interests and let the chips fall where they may? It'll mean the end of the ethanol boondoggle, the end of the wind boondoggle, the end of the solar boondoggle, ... and the last one standing will be Nuclear Power.
Here in California Green Power still is about 4 times the price of conventional power because of all the transmission lines, power surge regulators, etc. required. That means it can only compete in the Peak Time and Spot markets. Since Green Power trumps conventional power it will kill jobs for those who run peaker plants.
California solar panel manufacturer Yingli Green Energy scrapped plans to build a factory in Texas and will build panels in China. Thus no manufacturing jobs.
What the inside game of Green Power is all about is embargoing the cheapest power - coal and hydro - so oil and natural gas prices will rise (along with green power). . And then cash strapped cities can get bailed out with greater Utility User's Taxes from higher electricity prices. If you can embargo Walmart in your community then Target can raise prices. Rampant inflation will be the result.
While jobs the wind energy creates may be in small increments, we can't discount the fact this is new tech employment being created in rural areas, where job creation in new industries is difficult.
Minneapolis or St. Paul probably won't feel the impact of 10 or 20 jobs but in a Minnesota town of several hundred, that's a big boost in employment. Now multiply that job potential across a dozen rural communities. It would likely bring more economic diversity and potential to Minnesota’s countryside.
Also, the MN 2020 report accounted for 2,200 jobs over a 17-year construction period. That's not over hyping the green jobs impact. That accounts for temporary construction jobs, long-term technical jobs running wind farms, and other jobs attributed to the multiplier effect.
Subsidization of green power utilities hasn't had a very good track record.
I personally got very excited about the huge solar energy plants that were built in Spain because solar energy is truly inexhaustible and clean. It was hyped as the energy source of the future that would provide 'free' energy.
But Spain has revealed in the last few months that the whole project was highly subsidized and the supposed cost savings aren't developing as predicted.
And contrary to expectations wind power is constantly under attack from other environmentalists because of the number of birds that the giant vanes kill--and by the liberal elitists among us like the late Sen. Kennedy and Walter Kronkite who love 'green' solutions as long as the infrastructure isn't in their back yard spoiling THEIR view of nature.
Greens have to get their act together and admit that we don't yet have the technology to go into these projects with real hope of improving things within reasonable cost limitations.
It's hard not to read the very good Fed analysis and look at what's happened in Pipestone and not conclude that the public hope for green jobs in the new economy doesn't match the reality.
A few years ago, MnSCU pulled back on the number of electrician degree slots in its system after getting feedback that it was producing too many electricians to meet demand.
The green jobs question is similar. Public policy is promoting the idea that green jobs will be there in the future and we need to train people to take those jobs.
The Fed analysis suggests that the policy push may be wrong headed. Shouldn't we be discussing that?
Actually, the so-called fossil fuels are the energy alternative. Only a hundred years old, they have vastly improved life on earth. Before their discovery people had only wood, peat, and whale oil.
Progressives have always objected. They ran private companies out and insisted on the monopolies we have now. Understand how reactionary the really are.
American industry won't move full time into green energy until the Arab nations force us into it with higher oil prices or cutting our supply of oil of from the Gulf completely. Then and only then will it be "cheap enough" to develop, and people will finally get the message that green energy is also about freedom from the Arab nations greedy hold on America. Wind and solar are energy gifts from God, with unlimited capacity. But unfortunately, we won't develop it big time until we are force to, I'm afraid. And that will happen at some point in the future, you can be sure of that................
I though we were discussing that. ;-)
There are consequences to maintaining the status quo. The economic, social, environmental, and health costs of sticking with fossil fuels until they become scarce and even more costly need to be considered. Our county is like a big ship in the ocean -- it takes times and miles to turn her around.
If we don't start turning the wheel now, I'm afraid we may end up on the rocks later.
I worked at Suzlon from the time they opened in 2005 until 2008. It was a tough and dirty job, and I felt our efforts were hampered by a focus on throwing labor at a problem, rather than mechanization.
That said, this plant closing is a result of the tightening of credit. Any economic analyst worth his/her salt would point you to the credit tightening, and recession and it's impact on big capital expenditures like wind farms.
The tides are turning and people are seeing the "green movement" for what is. For people like FORMER rep Kalin it is THEIR religion. I dont shove my religion in your face and demand you live by it. I dont want to drive a prius or use flourescent light bulbs!! Move out west with Ed Begly and all the other wackos!!! People have real issues and real problems to deal with and all this environmental bs is just a hobby! I am so thankful i don't have to see him pretending to be a"local" guy anymore! Good bye jeremy and good riddance!!!!!!!!!
A few of the above posts seem to imply that US wind turbine workers are not needed. Apparently if you have the right political connections you can be a Chinese company using US stimulus dollars to build wind turbines destined for the US market. Why can't our politicians see what is happening and reach out to companies like Pipestone.
By the way the author's political slant against Tea Party or GOP for loosing these type of jobs is off target. Look at the following MSNBC article by Russ Choma shows a very
interesting development that I am sure would concern most Americans.