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While the green-jobs dream is collapsing, Mr. Obama has the opportunity, with Keystone XL, to prove commitment to genuine jobs, which must always ultimately be based on profitable private enterprise.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan to deliver a big “jobs speech” to a joint session of Congress next Tuesday appeared an obvious attempt to upstage his Republican presidential challengers, who were due to debate the same night. House leader John Boehner told the Prez to forget it, and the oration was switched to Wednesday. This made Mr. Obama, whose ratings are already in the toilet, look weak. He is likely to look weaker still next Wednesday.

Friday’s abysmal U.S. jobs report came with Mr. Obama’s policy cupboard almost bare. It had in any case been stocked with improvised economic explosive devices, specifically Keynesian stimulus and green industrial strategy.

Some think Fed chairman Ben Bernanke may be inclined after the weak employment figures to promote another round of “quantitative easing.” This amounts to pushing on the proverbial string, although not without inflationary consequences, as suggested by Friday’s surge in the price of gold. However, there exists one shovel-ready, genuinely stimulative infrastructure project that offers tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs, requires no government subsidy, and offers huge and desperately needed tax revenues: ­TransCanada Corp.’s US$7-billion Keystone XL pipeline to carry oil from Alberta’s oil sands to the Gulf coast.

The latest U.S. State Department environmental assessment has — again — given the project the green light. However, the radical environmental movement has drawn a bead on the pipeline, against which it has been chanting, placarding and getting arrested outside the White House in recent weeks, no doubt much to the President’s discomfort.

The movement has had much more success in Nebraska, whose Governor, Dave Heineman, has written to Mr. Obama asking him to block the line on the basis of its threat to the vast Ogallala aquifer, a threat that environmental studies have deemed groundless.

The main reason for picking on Keystone is that it allegedly carries “dirty” oil that will cook the planet due to its greenhouse-gas emissions. The persistent use of the term “dirty” exposes the blatant attempt to frame this as a “moral issue,” and thus impervious to rational analysis. It is a simple mathematical fact that oil sands emissions represent a microscopic part of total human greenhouse-gas emissions, which in turn are dwarfed by natural emissions.

However, the more fundamental issue is that of climate science. As Lawrence Solomon reports again elsewhere on this page, experiments at the European organization for nuclear research, CERN — which are based on testing the link between solar activity, cosmic rays and the Earth’s cloud cover — strongly suggest that solar activity is far more important to global climate variation than human greenhouse-gas emissions. This not only appears to put a tungsten rivet in the coffin of “official” science, but pulls the rug from the alleged need for vast global schemes of co-ordinated industrial control, which have in any case effectively collapsed in a heap, leaving only suicidal policy remnants at the national and regional level.

Earlier this year, Mr. Obama, during a visit to the California plant of solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra LLC, declared that he had seen the future, and it was solar. “The true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra,” he said. Apparently not. With impeccably bad timing, Solyndra — which had been backed with a whopping US$535-million federal loan guarantee — this week filed for bankruptcy, with the loss of 1,100 jobs. Worse, it was the third U.S. solar company to seek protection in the past month.

The latest academic study to point out that the green employment emperor has no clothes comes this week from Gordon Hughes, professor of economics at the University of Edinburgh. As a former advisor on energy and environmental policy to the World Bank, he will be hard to write off as an industry shill (although green radicals will surely try if ignoring him doesn’t work).

The title of Prof. Hughes’ study, The Myth of Green Jobs, says it all. It is aimed specifically at the U.K., but has global relevance. Green policies would boost inflation and lower growth. Renewable capital costs are up to 10 times as much as those of conventional energy. This means — under present U.K. policies — the diversion of some £120-billion ($192-billion) from productive investment elsewhere. Higher energy costs would cause companies to relocate or go under. Meanwhile, the idea that the U.K. might be able to create some comparative advantage in renewable energy is an illusion. (Pretty much every jurisdiction on Earth, including Ontario, is pursuing the same lemming-like policy.)

While the green-jobs dream is collapsing, Mr. Obama has the opportunity, with Keystone XL, to prove commitment to genuine jobs, which must always ultimately be based on profitable private enterprise. In fact, it appears increasingly likely that the line will get the go-ahead. Not only did Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent look forward this week to “eventual approval,” but even U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu — who recently suggested that energy choices had to be removed from people for their own good — pointed to the line’s advantages in terms of security of supply.

If Mr. Obama were to express support for Keystone, he would invite abuse from increasingly marginalized and desperate green radicals, but he would indicate a genuine concern for The American People. It’s not that the electorate is more concerned about jobs than environmental concerns; it’s that those environmental concerns are almost entirely bogus.

How will Mr. Obama likely deal with the implosion of official climate science and Green Keynesianism next Wednesday? He’ll suggest the answer is to bash the rich.

Financial Post, 3 September 2011