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A headline from Reuters this week was remarkably understated: "Analysis: Obama’s ‘green jobs’ have been slow to sprout." Slow to sprout? That doesn’t quite address the situation. The headline still requires the expectation of sprouts — meaning it’s the equivalent of writing "Analysis: Seeds flushed down toilets have been slow to sprout."

But let’s give Reuters some credit, at least, for daring to point out that, despite $90 billion in stimulus spending and promises of a bountiful harvest of green energy jobs, the Green Emperor Has No Sprouts. The article does lead with a discussion of the president speaking in front of the Copper Mountain Solar Project in Boulder City, Nevada, which employs not seven, not eight, not even nine, but ten people, which could charitably and technically be termed a measurable percentage of the 720,000 green jobs the administration promised through Vice President Joe Biden.

Reuters also pointed out that the wind industry "has shed 10,000 jobs since 2009" and followed that statistic with this one: "Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry has added 75,000 jobs since Obama took office." That’s a particularly galling fact to the administration given its stated opposition to fossil fuels, and it is compounded by the fact that the president in an election year needs to claim credit for those jobs created in oil and gas despite his opposition, as they comprise nearly one out of five good-paying jobs created since he became president.

Still, the expectation there is for the jobs to sprout, which requires a belief first that the market has failed to allocate resources to supposedly fertile areas of green-job growth. It’s an expectation that the president himself had, despite projections to the contrary by his own economic advisors. Noam Scheiber’s book The Escape Artists: How Obama’s Team Fumbled the Recovery includes a telling anecdote (emphasis added):

Energy was a particular obsession of the president-elect’s, and therefore a particular source of frustration. Week after week, [White House economic adviser Christina] Romer would march in with an estimate of the jobs all the investments in clean energy would produce; week after week, Obama would send her back to check the numbers. "I don’t get it," he’d say. "We make these large-scale investments in infrastructure. What do you mean, there are no jobs?" But the numbers rarely budged.

By now, however, it should be patently evident what the expectation for government "investments" in green jobs should be: "paying folks NOT to produce." Yesterday Investors Business Daily (IBD) provided more examples:

First Solar, a solar energy company that received a $1.46 billion loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, announced Monday it will lay off 2,000 workers worldwide. In December, First Solar laid off 100 employees at a Santa Clara , Calif., plant.

The DOE has committed the loan to a project in Riverside County, Calif., expected to create a whopping 15 permanent jobs and 550 construction jobs. …

Last Friday, Delaware Online reports, 12 more workers — including engineers and maintenance technicians — were laid off at Fisker Automotive’s plant in Wilmington, Del., an old General Motors facility.

Originally Fisker was to build its $107,850 dream car, the electric Fisker Karma, there. The Karma, which Consumer Reports labeled "undrivable" after it had to be towed away after a test drive, is being built by Valmet in Finland. Fisker Automotive is the recipient of a $529 million federal government loan guarantee.

Those who find train wrecks, bloody hockey melees, and other hideous mash-ups fascinating are invited to read Paul Chesser’s much more detailed discussion of those boondoggles over at the National Legal and Policy Center. As for me, especially given the discussion in my last newsletter, I would like to highlight this portion of IBD’s article:

Contrast this boondoggle with the privately funded Keystone XL pipeline, delayed by President Obama over alleged environmental concerns, which would create 20,000 jobs initially and perhaps 10 times that over the life of the project. It will bring 800,000 barrels of oil daily to U.S. refineries, whether the sun shines or not.

It’s one thing to wonder why seeds planted in infertile areas aren’t sprouting. It’s another thing entirely to do so while deliberately trampling viable sprouts underfoot.

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