WikiLeaks: Granholm's Obama Job Application Oversold Clean Energy Jobs

No evidence in data of meaningful green jobs growth

The leaked WikiLeaks emails released this month offer insight into former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s belief that she could reinvent the state’s economy.

One leaked Granholm email dated Nov. 8, 2008, was sent to John Podesta, head of President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team. Midway through her second and final term as governor, Granholm was applying for the position of U.S. Secretary of Energy. She wrote: “As we briefly discussed, in Michigan I have focused like a laser on replacing our dwindling manufacturing jobs with clean tech and renewable energy jobs.”

Now, eight years after Granholm was passed over for the position, hindsight shows how ill-founded her confidence was that clean energy jobs could replace traditional manufacturing jobs.

Granholm’s email was sent in 2008, before the full force of the Great Recession had hit. But Michigan was already hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs and had been for some time.

The state had 732,300 manufacturing jobs in January 2003 when Granholm took office. By November 2008, there were just 540,300 manufacturing jobs left. The state had seen a 26 percent drop in manufacturing jobs, a loss of 192,000 jobs.

Today, eight years on, there is some employment data available for the clean energy industry suggesting how ineffective it has been as a jobs producer.

It’s not easy to track just how many jobs are created by “clean energy.” The government doesn’t have precise reporting classifications.

For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic (BLS) classified “wind turbines manufacturing” along with 14 other titles such as “gas turbines manufacturing,” “steam turbines manufacturing” and “water turbines manufacturing.”

Those 14 job classifications produced a total of 89 jobs in Michigan in 2015, of which some were probably “wind turbines manufacturing.”

Battery manufacturing jobs were not disclosed by the BLS until 2011. In 2015, there were 918 battery manufacturing jobs in the state.

Other clean energy industries?

Under BLS rules, the agency could release data for jobs in wind electric power generation for 2014, though not other years. In 2014, it produced 16 jobs.

Information on solar electric power generation could not be disclosed, also due to agency rules.The BLS generally doesn’t disclose job numbers that are so small they may reveal protected information about a specific company. A company, for example, may be the only one producing jobs in that field.

The clean energy jobs are just a tiny fraction of the approximately 200,000 new jobs created and 200,000 existing jobs shed in the state in any given three-month span. (In recent years the number of jobs created has exceeded the number that disappears each quarter.)

But none of the data from the BLS in 2015 supports the theory that clean energy was the way to reinvigorate Michigan employment.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.