Putting Some Real Fuel into the U.S. Jobs Market

As unemployment still hovers above 9 percent and with a meager 58,000 jobs added in September, now would be the time for President Obama to do whatever he can do to help propel job growth.  Rather than another jobs bill with billions in hidden immediate costs and decades of issues to come, there are tangible solutions that won’t cause long-term economic devastation.

According to a study released in March as part of the Chamber of Commerce’s Project No Project initiative, almost 2 million jobs are sitting, waiting and wishing to start, but are mired in regulations, awaiting government approval, or caught up in some other government bureaucracy.  The authors of the study looked closely at 351 new solar, wind, gas, coal, hydroelectric, or other energy creation and transmission programs that have been delayed or shut down by government regulation, litigation or bureaucracy.

The term “shovel-ready” may well have lost its believability after countless promises from the previous stimulus bill, but these projects are truly ready to begin, often completely funded, and just stuck in regulatory limbo.  The authors use multiplier analyses to look at an economy wherein these programs were allowed to continue.  Breaking the programs into two phases, initial construction and operations, the authors see the long-term economic effects of the new energy programs.

In the construction phase, the authors expect the creation of over a million jobs ($352 billion in employment earnings) and $1.1 trillion in additional GDP.  The long-term maintenance and operations phase, then, was projected to produce another 800,000 jobs and $2.3 billion in additional GDP.

It seems like policymakers and the White House have not taken the population’s temperature on this issue.  A poll done just weeks ago finds overwhelming support for the creation of new energy jobs.  The poll, commissioned by the American Consumer Institute, found that over 92% of Americans feel the economy is weak.  What’s more interesting is how they think it can be solved.  Over 90% of respondents think that an investment in energy projects would benefit the economy and create new jobs.

When the pollsters break down energy jobs by type, only one type of energy program (nuclear) doesn’t get popular support.  Others, like natural gas, with over 80% support, are viewed positively by the broad population.  Consumers also overwhelmingly believe that these new energy projects will help to drive down the price of energy for consumers.

The energy study illustrates the massive benefits of a deregulated energy sector, and with overwhelming popular support from consumers, one has to wonder what exactly is it that is keeping policymakers and the current administration from acting to release over a million jobs from the clutches of an expanding regulatory bureaucracy.

Zack Christenson is a Chicago-based blogger who writes on consumer policy.

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