Thursday, February 4, 2010

China’s Labor Edge Overpowers Obama’s ‘Green’ Jobs Initiatives (First Solar, Suntech) FSLR; STP

A smart angle on "greencollar" jobs.
From Bloomberg:
President Barack Obama is spending $2.1 million to help Suntech Power Holdings Co. build a solar- panel plant in Arizona. It will hire 70 Americans to assemble components made by Suntech’s 11,000 Chinese workers.

That gap shows the challenge Obama faces as he works to create “green” jobs. Asia makes more than half the world’s wind and solar energy equipment, and is gaining ground as U.S. factories lose out to cheaper labor and higher demand for clean energy. China for the first time topped the U.S. in wind-turbine manufacturing and installations last year, the Brussels-based Global Wind Energy Council said yesterday in a report.

Obama is giving billions of dollars in tax breaks to the wind and solar industries to create jobs in the U.S. even as production expands faster overseas. First Solar Inc., the world’s largest maker of thin-film solar-power modules, won $16.3 million to add 200 manufacturing jobs at its Ohio plant, yet 71 percent of its planned factory growth will go to Malaysia. The company employs 4,500 globally.

“The cost of manufacturing here is too expensive compared to Asia,” said Guy Chaffin, chief executive officer of Elite Search International, a Roseville, California-based executive search firm that has found employees for Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar and Solar Millennium AG. “As far as a flood of good jobs coming to the U.S., we’re not seeing it.”

To compete for clean-energy jobs, the U.S. must create demand by capping fossil-fuel pollution that contributes to global warming, Carol Browner, Obama’s coordinator of energy and environment policy, said yesterday at the opening of a three-day renewable-energy conference in Washington.

Cap-and-Trade Proposal

Obama backs a “cap-and-trade” system to limit carbon emissions and establish a market in pollution allowances, a proposal that passed the House and has stalled in the Senate. Congress is also debating measures, backed by the administration, that would require utilities to buy some of their power from renewable sources.

“Will batteries that power the next generation of hybrid cars come from South Korea or South Carolina?” Browner said. “The best way to take advantage of these opportunities is to put in place the right price signals here at home, create the demand here at home so that our companies will make the investment here at home.”>>>MORE


Do Greencollar Jobs Pay $76,000/year or $12.00/hour?

Ten Best Green Jobs for the Next Decade
#1 Be Al Gore.
Just kidding, that's not on the list.
Kids, Some of These Green-Collar Jobs Pay Pretty Well

...Mayor's climate aide gets $160,000 a year

...San Francisco has at least two dozen other city employees already working directly on climate issues at a cost to taxpayers of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"If there are 25 people working on climate protection issues for the city, that's a good start," Newsom spokesman Nathan Ballard said. "Ten years ago, there probably weren't any. It's smart policy to have one point person at the highest level of city government to coordinate all 25 of them."

In addition to the director of climate protection initiatives in Newsom's office, San Francisco has an Energy and Climate Program team of eight people in the Department of the Environment, who combined earn more than $800,000 a year in salary and benefits, including a "climate action coordinator."

Greencollar Jobs: Greenery may create jobs—but not the ones its boosters think

Discussion of greencollar jobs is usually short on specifics so I'll do a mini data-dump for you.
Three major wind companies have recently set up shop in Arkansas. Turbine maker Nordex will pay an average $17.00/hr. Blade manufacturer LM Glasfiber was recently advertising for production tecnicians at $12.13/hr. and Polymarin Composites will pay its 830 employees an average of $15.00. sources
In contrast there is a cottage industry that pays considerably more, from our May 30, post

"Green Collar Jobs: What Do they Pay?"

With all the political positioning of climate legislation as 'creating' jobs it is startling how reticent the proponents are about actual numbers. From doing due diligence I know some of the numbers but public sources that have specific wages that I can link to aren't common.

Some of the jobs are well paying. For example the insiders at First Solar have sold $1.1 Billion worth of stock in the last 15 months.
(bless those German hausfraus paying the feed-in tariff)

Climateer's "Quote of the Day": Productivity

...I attempted to make a similar point (albeit less productively) regarding energy, in a comment on Environmental Capital's December 10 post "Green Jobs: Are They Just a Myth?":

The key to greencollar jobs is inefficiency. The more labor intensive the energy production the more people you will employ.

Doing a reductio ad absurdum, you would construct a human powered generator.
At a spacing of one meter, a 950 mile diameter wheel would employ five million people.
At 1/10 horsepower per person you would generate 3 million kWh/day.
Of course paying even the minimum wage gets your cost up to the $90.00 kWh range (i.e $80,000/month for the average home’s usage) but you’ve put 5mm folks to work.

This is an extreme example but the concept is pretty well fleshed out in the literature.

Comment by Climateer - December 10, 2008 at 11:49 am