The High Cost of Being Green

COMMENTARY Environment

The High Cost of Being Green

May 13th, 2009 2 min read

Spokesperson, The LIBRE Initiative

Israel Ortega is a former contributor for The Foundry.

Have you gone green?

If not, chances are you're in the minority. Celebrities and companies alike are urging us all to go green by adopting "simple steps" to reduce our "carbon footprint." And here in Washington, D.C, a number of legislative proposals are circulating in the halls of Congress to push our country to create a "green economy."

For far too many leaders, world hunger, human rights violations and sexual trafficking appear to have taken a back seat to the alleged "climate change" problem. Led by former Vice President Al Gore and his allies in Hollywood, millions of dollars, euros and yen have been spent to push climate change to the forefront of our daily lives through a steady stream of advertisements.

Many argue we must reduce traditional energy consumption in favor of non-traditional energy sources like wind or air. We can reduce our carbon footprint, they argue, by being more aware of our own energy consumption. We're encouraged, among many things, to buy more environmentally-friendly automobiles and shop for more locally produced groceries.

For advocates, now is the perfect time to push the federal government to support alternative energy development. For sympathetic politicians, supporting green initiatives seems to make perfect sense. They think they can: (a) help the environment and (b) help the economy.

Sounds great.

But not so fast, say some in Spain who have been living in a "green economy" for the past few years. According to a recent study by Dr. Gabriel Calzada of the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, government subsidies for renewable energy create increasingly large debt bubbles and artificially create a new market that will eventually collapse without more government money.

These sobering words matter because Spain is the global leader at enacting green-friendly ideas into practice. Unfortunately, these policies come at a heavy price. According to Dr. Calzada, Spain is currently spending close to $8 billion every year in government subsidies. The country's higher energy costs have led to 2.2 job losses economy-wide for every "green" job created. Proof is Spain's dismal unemployment rate, with some experts predicting that it could reach 20 percent by next year.

Incredibly, some in our nation's capital, including President Obama, are actually encouraging us to look to Spain as a model for a "green economy." Allies in Congress are lobbying for more "cap and trade" policies. That's simply a fancy way of taxing energy consumption.

Worse, these taxes would fall disproportionately on the poor. By example, last year's Warner-Lieberman bill would have hit the average American household with a tax hike of $1,100 in 2008. And according to economists at The Heritage Foundation, had the Warner-Lieberman Climate Change bill passed, the northeast region of our country would have stood to lose 102,110 jobs and $26.54 billion.

To be sure, we all have an obligation to be good stewards of this earth and our precious resources. We should all strive to leave our children and grandchildren with a cleaner earth.And we certainly should welcome the development of all alternative energy sources - nuclear, wind, solar, or anything else. But the successful alternatives should be chosen by those who have to buy and produce the energy and not by politicians and lobbyists picking winners and losers using the taxpayers' money. And at a time when our economy continues to suffer, we must be keenly aware of the costs included in any ambitious proposal to create "green jobs" through government subsidies. As our friends in Spain are discovering, being green comes at a price.

Israel Ortega is a Senior Media Services Associate at The Heritage Foundation.

First Appeared in El Diario La Prensa (NYC)