One of my favorite moments from the new book The Escape Artists: How Obama’s Team Fumbled the Recovery:
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.
Now let’s fast forward to this past September:
A $38.6 billion loan guarantee program that the Obama administration promised would create or save 65,000 jobs has created just a few thousand jobs two years after it began, government records show. The program — designed to jump-start the nation’s clean technology industry by giving energy companies access to low-cost, government-backed loans — has directly created 3,545 new, permanent jobs after giving out almost half the allocated amount, according to Energy Department tallies.
So where are the new jobs coming from, at least the good-paying ones? From the industry Obama wants to replace as much as possible with “clean” energy: oil and gas. A new report from the World Economic Forum estimates the sectors “added approximately 150,000 jobs in 2011, 9% of all jobs created in the United States that year.”
Those numbers are even more impressive once you realize that some 40% of all new jobs are being added in low-pay sectors such as retailing and leisure. So nearly 20% of new “good jobs” are in oil and gas.
More from the WEF report:
A common measure of the relative contribution of an industry to the overall economy is the value added per worker or, in other words, the monetary value of work performed by an individual in a given year. The higher the ratio, the greater each worker’s contribution to GDP. On average direct employees in the US oil and gas sector contribute US$ 171,000 to US$ 371,000 to GDP. The average figure for all other US industries in 2010 was approximately US$ 112,000. The larger economic contributions per worker highlight the impact of improving technology on productivity in the sector.