State and federal officials are creating a massive offshore wind energy industry with the money of ordinary taxpayers and ratepayers. Among the main benefits and justifications for this colossal government-controlled program is that it will create tens of thousands of good paying jobs.
This month, under pressure from the Biden administration and no doubt New Jersey officials as well, industry leader Ørsted announced that all of those jobs will go to labor unions, which already are in a mutually supportive relationship with government.
Ørsted's six offshore wind projects in development -- including New Jersey's first that is 15 miles off Atlantic City -- are the most for a corporation in the U.S. It agreed to the deal, called the National Offshore Wind Agreement, with North America's Building Trades Unions, a labor federation of 14 construction unions.
David Hardy, CEO of Ørsted, said the agreement sets "the industry standard" for how offshore wind farms will be constructed.
Other offshore wind companies must agree to terms at least as pro-union or expect to have trouble getting government approval.
The agreement's union conditions will cover all Ørsted workers building the company's wind farms from Maine to Florida, and all contractors and subcontractors used must follow the terms as well.
As we've said before, offshore wind is a massive clean energy resource for East Coast states that must be developed. The Biden administration made clear such development would be subject to political priorities.
Gina McCarthy, White House national climate advisor, said the Ørsted union deal was a model for green energy development. "With the new lease sales, the new project approvals, we are showing the world that the United States is open for business -- business run by union members," McCarthy said.
The deal helps solve a political problem for government leaders. Pushing belief in a climate crisis and vilifying fossil fuel industries is advantageous to them, but workers in those industries are among their mutually supporting union allies. Just subsidizing both the old and new energy industries wasn't enough; the path to the future for the union members needed to be smoothed.
Biden administration and union officials call this a "just transition," and a way to protect the workforce that has benefited from the fossil fuel industry and ensure it is fully supportive of politicians' clean energy agenda.
"People get aggravated with the building trades because they don't always seem to just fall into line, because we have this solemn obligation to represent the economic interests of our members," said Sean McGarvey, president of North America's Building Trades Unions. "We are believers in climate change and we want to do our part. But we need that 'just transition.'"
About half of the membership of the North America's Building Trades Unions is in some part of the fossil fuel industry.
A group opposing the first Ørsted project, Ocean City Flooding, told NJ Spotlight that the focus on jobs neglects potential problems such as threats to migrating birds and whales, rate increases and declining property values. Job losses in commercial fishing may more than offset any gains in Cape May County, said Suzanne Hornick, one of its founders. "We support jobs for Americans, however it should be noted that here in Cape May County, Ørsted has not committed to one job."
The deal will bring more wealth and power to the unions and to their government supporters. To the people and businesses who will have to buy the electricity generated by offshore wind turbines, it will bring significant increases in what were already expected to be much higher monthly bills.
Open and competitive bidding of offshore wind work that didn't exclude non-union companies and contractors would reduce more climate emissions for the buck. That is the industry's primary goal.
Anyone expecting to work in the offshore wind industry better either already be a member of one of these unions or have a smooth path to becoming a member.