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Make Green Jobs Program Accountable


Venture capitalists make good returns when their investments in new firms or products succeed because they take big risks. The chance of failure — and big losses — is high. But they are investing their own money and that of their voluntary clients. Government shouldn't be in that business.

"Green" industries and green jobs are all the rage in government. A lot of ink has been spilled on the Obama administration's half-billion-dollar loan guarantee for Solyndra, the failed California solar panel firm.

Now comes a report from the U.S. Labor Department's inspector general suggesting that a $500 million administration program to train and place workers in green industry jobs, including renewable energy, pollution control and energy conservation, has been unsuccessful and the remaining money in the program should be returned for other uses.

The program was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus program. The inspector general reports that the green jobs training grants resulted in the placement of 8,035 participants, with 1,336 retaining their jobs for more than six months.

The targeted goal of the program was to place close to 80,000 workers.

While about 53,000 participants were served by the training program, about 21,000 already had jobs and sought the training to either retain their jobs or improve their skills.

The inspector general's report suggested that the slow progress of placing people brought the program into question.

The audit suggested that green jobs program officials should do a realistic evaluation of how much additional money can be spent "given the current demand for green-job-related skills and the job market for green jobs." Once this is done, "any of the remaining $327 million of funds determined to be not needed should be recouped as soon as practicable ... so they can be available for other purposes," the report stated.

Another part of the program required the department to set up a green-jobs labor exchange so workers would be aware of the openings.

However good an idea the effort seems on paper, the government is not in a position to pinpoint where green jobs — or any jobs — will be developed. Nor can it accurately predict exactly what skills will be required for which jobs. The economy of a nation as large as the United States is too complex and too diffuse for central direction from Washington or even regional offices.

In the Solyndra case, questions are being raised about whether the administration pressured various federal agencies to speed up the approval process for the loan. In this instance, the Labor Department's own inspector general is asking needed questions about the effectiveness of the green jobs program.

The administration ought to take the questions seriously.




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Star ParkerUpdated 7 Oct 2015
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