Actually I’ve got nothing against Obama. I couldn’t give a hoot who wins the US Presidential election. But I was amused to see Mitt Romney citing some of my research in one of his policy documents attacking the President.
What’s interesting is not the research itself but what it shows about ideas and how they gain traction. The point Romney picked up on was completely unoriginal and self-evident. It is simply that if you switch from one method of production to another, more expensive one, there’s bound to be an economic cost.
Well, not apparently when it comes to renewable energy. Politicians and lobbyists the world over are pretending that switching from fossil fuels to renewables will actually create jobs. Here in Scotland Alex Salmond in particular is full of this nonsense. The SNP is forever telling us that renewables will not only rescue us from the current recession but provide a cornucopia of wealth for the foreseeable future, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, regardless of its impact on climate change.
It’s such obvious bullshit it’s embarrassing, and my research with Richard Marsh for Verso Economics used the Scottish Government’s own economic model to demonstrate the fact.
This isn’t anything against renewable energy per se, by the way. Action to stop climate change may or may not be necessary, that’s not the point. But it will cost money and jobs, there’s no getting away from it.
The thing is that the whole green argument has become so polarised that making this obvious point is controversial. So the Verso research has been picked up from Australia to America by people who really want to argue about climate change rather than economics. And climate change has become the big ideological left-right issue of the day.
The moral of the story is that if you talk nonsense, then your cause (however valid it might be) will be undermined. Those who advocate switching to renewable energy would do much better to admit it’s costly, but say it’s a price worth paying.