Tom Steyer’s Stimulus
A California green scheme fails to create jobs or save energy.
|Billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer speaks during a news conference in Santa Monica, Calif. on Aug. 5.|
Aug. 18, 2015 6:57 p.m. ET THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
How many workers does it take to change an incandescent light bulb in California? Two. One to install its energy-efficient replacement, and another to ensure the job complies with government regulations. Behold Tom Steyer’s green jobs stimulus, which a new report from the Associated Press shows has been a colossal failure even by its proponents’ standards.
In 2012 the hedge-fund billionaire bankrolled a California ballot initiative (Prop. 39) hitting up corporations to finance green construction jobs. The referendum changed the way many corporations that do business across state lines calculate their tax liability. Half of the new revenues were to be earmarked for “clean energy” (e.g., LED and solar panel installations) with the rest flowing into Sacramento’s general fund for the politicians to spend.
Mr. Steyer and friends claimed the initiative would raise more than $500 million annually for green projects and create tens of thousands of jobs. Neither dream has come true. According to AP, the initiative’s clean-energy fund has raised $973 million over the past three years—about a third less than projections because companies have responded by seeking to minimize their tax liabilities.
And little of that has gone toward creating “clean energy.” Funding recipients have frittered away millions completing paperwork—energy surveys, audits, data analytics—to meet California Energy Commission’s guidelines, which require $1.05 of energy savings for every dollar spent. Schools have spent more than half of the $297 million that they’ve received on consultants and auditors. As if California’s regulatory compliance industry needed more work.
AP reports that the initiative has created all of 1,700 jobs over three years, yet the state doesn’t know how much if any energy has been saved. Credit to Mr. Steyer for his grand ambitions. His initiative may beat the 2009 Obama-Pelosi blowout as the country’s least effective jobs stimulus.
Mr. Steyer told AP the initiative has nonetheless accomplished its goal of closing a “corporate loophole.” But then results rarely matter for the supporters of green subsidies. Their good intentions in spending other peoples’ money is enough.
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