A few weeks back, I reported some snippets from the House of Lords debate on energy. The second reading of the bill took place just before Christmas and had many interesting points, several of which came from Lord Giddens, the sociologist and Labour party guru.
Last time round, I majored on the long-since refuted claims that "green" jobs were a benefit of government policy. I therefore read with some hope these words of Lord Giddens:
...job creation is often mentioned as an important outcome of investment in home insulation, renewable energy and wider energy innovation. However, there is an awful lot of loose talk around this, some of which appears in government documents,I am afraid.
Correct. However, the noble lord quickly demonstrates that his own take is remarkably deviod of substance...
Where it is said, for example, that wind power will create so many thousand jobs, what is important is not the jobs that are created by specific technologies or innovations but, because jobs will be lost in the older energy industries, the net new jobs that are created. Have the Government done a calculation of net job outcomes from the innovations in the Bill and the wider innovations that are proposed? Without that, you cannot say that these innovations will create net new employment. Most new technologies tend to reduce the need for labour rather than expand it. This is an important aspect of investment in new energy technologies and I feel that a lot more work must be done on it than I have seen. As I said, many statements on this topic are simply superficial.
They are indeed. As has been said ad nauseam, we want to generate the energy we need with as few people as possible. So Giddens would appear to be one of those people making superficial statements about green jobs.
Earlier in the debate, Lord Lawson had referred to the government's proposals as "dirigiste", a characterisation that seems quite apt. However, he was taken up on this by Giddens, who replied with a spectacular piece of circular logic:
The noble Lord, Lord Lawson, called them “dirigiste” proposals, essentially as a way of dumping on them. I would say the opposite. I think that it is right and proper in energy and climate change, where you are planning for a 20-year or 30-year cycle, to have a plan.