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POLITICS: White House

Green energy jobs far short of Obama goal

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Politics,White House,Brian Hughes

President Obama has made much of his commitment to green energy as he launches his re-election bid, but the nascent industry has produced far fewer jobs than the president promised, despite massive, repeated infusions of taxpayer dollars.

Since taking office more than three years ago, Obama has routinely promoted wind, solar and other green energy efforts, touring factories -- often the beneficiaries of federal grants -- and touting the manufacturers as cutting-edge job producers who are leading America's transition to energy independence. He had promised in 2008 to help those companies create millions of jobs.

"We can invest $15 billion a year in renewable sources of energy ... to create 5 million new jobs, new energy jobs, all across [the] country, jobs that pay well, jobs that can't be outsourced," Obama, the candidate, told an Ohio crowd.

But the president has fallen far short of his own mark.

The wind industry has actually lost about 10,000 jobs since 2009, even though it doubled its domestic production, the American Wind Energy Association reports. And Republicans were quick to point out that as Obama blocks the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas, the oil and gas industry has added 75,000 jobs since the start of his term.

Obama spent $90 billion of his stimulus package on green energy projects, including weatherization of buildings and development of electric vehicles. Yet, by the end of last year, just 16,100 people landed new jobs in the so-called green industry, Labor Department statistics show, far short of the 200,000 jobs the White House projected it would help create each year.

The lack of progress has some Democrats bemoaning the current state of green energy, particularly when compared with the vision laid out by Obama.

"To me, the most glaring failure of the Obama administration has been a total inability to deliver on green jobs," said one top Democratic strategist not associated with the president's re-election campaign. "Even worse, it's not even part of the national dialogue -- you'd think it would be a bigger part of his platform with all the focus on gas prices, but sadly, it just the occasional stump speech."

Administration officials counter that laying the foundation for green energy boosts the U.S. in the long term, even if jobs aren't being created at the pace Obama had promised in the campaign. Wind power and other green initiatives, Obama said last week in Iowa, remain part of his "all-of-the-above energy strategy."

"This is an industry on the rise," Obama said at a wind turbine factory, calling on Congress to extend his tax credit for wind producers. "And as you know, it's an industry that's putting people to work."

Still, with job creation lagging behind his own predictions, Obama's green energy initiatives have provided Republicans with political ammo they have not hesitated to use against him, including the bankruptcy of Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturer that failed despite a $535 million federal loan.

Such failures, Republicans said, prove the government can't pick winners and losers in the private sector.

"He handed out tens of billions of dollars to green energy companies, including his friends and campaign contributors at companies like Solyndra that are now bankrupt," said presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. "He's crony capitalist."

bhughes@washingtonexaminer.com

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Brian Hughes

White House Correspondent
The Washington Examiner