Let’s focus on jobs – promote renewable energy

Nadja Popovich of The New York Times penned a story this week called “Today’s energy jobs are in solar, not coal.” Using 2016 numbers released by the US Department of Energy in January, the following data points are revealed per Popovich:

  • 1.9 million Americans work in the field of power creation (including generation, mining and other fuel extraction activities).
  • More than 373,000 Americans work full or part-time in solar energy, with 260,000 of them spending over 70% of their time on solar projects.
  • Wind energy jobs topped 100,000 for the first time in 2016.
  • The coal industry jobs have fallen to 160,000 Americans nationwide, with only 54,000 in coal mining, a significant reduction which has occurred over time with the advent of natural gas due to fracking and decreasing prices in renewables.
  • It should be noted there are another 2.3 million jobs in energy transmission, storage and distribution, including more than 900,000 gas station workers and related retail jobs.
  • If non-traditional energy workers are added, those installing energy-efficient products, the number swells in total to 6.4 million Americans.

Solar jobs have been growing at an annual double-digit rate for several years and will continue to do so with the falling prices. A report of a couple of years ago, noted that wind energy jobs could grow to 500,000 by 2030, if we invest appropriately. It should be noted that Warren Buffett and oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens are big proponents of wind energy, with the Buffett investing in GE who produces wind turbines and Pickens promoting wind energy in the plain states for several years. Iowa gets over a 1/3 of its electricity and oil-rich Texas gets 11% of its electricity from wind energy, e.g.

So, the next time you discuss the need for moving forward with renewable energy and someone counters your argument with a remark about jobs, please remember these real numbers released by the DOE. The best I can ascertain, is the DOE is not in the business of fake news. And, the final question to ask is where do you think investors are going to place their bets – on a retrenching industry or a growing one?

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14 thoughts on “Let’s focus on jobs – promote renewable energy

  1. I’ve been seeing these truly informational graphs about where the business of energy production seems to be heading. Thanks for writing about this need to stick with facts, and not our politicians’ talking points.

    • Thanks Susan. This White House runs the risk of being left out of many important conversations in the world. When one denies facts, it does not mean the facts are not true. We are passed the tipping point on renewable energy and even Donald Trump cannot stem the tide.

  2. I feel like the GOPs obsession with retrenching coal and oil is symptomatic of so many of their policies. They are not based on a true fiscal view of the country. They are based on a contributor view. In this case coal and oil companies who haven’t sniffed the future and changed directions.

    In other words, the GOP is no longer driving policy, their contributors are. And that is part of why they are just so weak even when standing with the triple crown of power.

    • I like the term “contributor view.” It explains a great deal. I have said before I fault the leaders of coal producing states for not looking out for their constituents. They have seen this trend for quite awhile, so rather than embrace other energy sources and retraining, they fought the change. When the present value cost of coal is factored in, it makes less sense to invest in. They should have gotten with leaders and said, let’s incent you to invest in wind and solar energy, as this industry has a diminishing return.

  3. Good, informative post, Keith! I wonder, when all Trump’s bluster about so many ‘new jobs’ being created in the coal industry fails to materialize, who he will blame. The ‘fake news media’? Lyin’ Ted Cruz? The Democrats in Congress? Women? Jews? Meryl Streep? Or will he throw one of his own under the bus?

    Let us hope that somehow, somebody with some sense prevails …

    • Jill, thanks. An energy consultant was interviewed on NPR last fall. He said Trump’s own plan will further coal’s demise, as natural gas is cheaper than coal and does not have the lingering coal ash problem. Opening up more areas for coal development won’t do the job, as the demand for coal is waning. I fault leaders in coal states for not shooting straight with coal miners. That includes Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul of Kentucky. This has been coming for almost ten years. Keith

      • That is true. I have friends who are coal miners in southwestern Virginia, and they are not buying Trump’s rhetoric … they firmly believe their jobs will be gone soon, but they are not sure what to do next. They feel stuck, as they know nothing else, and that has been their home all their lives.

      • Jill, I saw a cool piece yesterday about a coal company in Kentucky that is placing a solar farm on top of an old strip mining site. That is an example of the right path forward. Keith

      • I have noted before the executive of a major energy company in Germany bemoaning the fact that his company did not get into the clean energy field before it took off and buried coal and nuclear power in that country. We are taking steps, to be sure. Small steps and without government support by and large. But steps none the less!

      • Hugh, Ben Bernanke was on CBS This Morning about his new book. He noted those old manufacturing and mining jobs are not coming back. Instead of trying to recreate industries of the 1960s and 1970s, he said we should be looking at the new jobs of the future. It should be noted that Germany exports are taking off due to global trade right now, so the nationalism movement has stalled with his growth. Bernanke is a person worth listening too, as opposed to our leader who makes up his own data. Keith

      • Jill, I witnessed a speech by a Solar Energy developer advocating NC agree to the Clean Power plan 18 months ago. He said to the government representatives, that NC is already halfway to the 2030 goal and if the legislature will just stay out of the way, we will blow past the goal. His words could apply to Messers. McConnell and Trump, as well. Just stay out of the way. Keith

    • Lisa, we must hope that ignoring the truth will catch up to him, but it needs to be soon. We need some prominent Republicans to call this President on the carpet for his anti-environmental positions. Keith

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