By Kim Robson:
Our current president has said that he wants to revitalize the American workforce by creating more jobs here and bringing overseas jobs back to the U.S. However, if that is his real goal, he’s wrongly focusing on industries that are in decline and will continue to fail in the future.
President Trump says the Keystone XL Pipeline will create 28,000 temporary construction jobs, but reports suggest that number is inflated by a factor of seven, and permanent jobs would number only in the hundreds. He also wants to bring back coal mining, despite the fact that the growth rate of employment in fossil fuel industries fell by 4.5% from 2012 to 2015, according to a report by the Environmental Defense Fund’s Climate Corps.
Since June 2014, the price of crude oil has dropped by 58% due to Saudi Arabia’s market grab. This led to drastic job reductions in the fossil fuels industry. Projects that are expensive to produce, such as U.S. shale fracking, Canada’s oil sands, and Brazil’s deepwater drilling projects, have become wholly unprofitable.
A few numbers:
- 350,000 = Jobs in solar energy production in 2016, more than 40% of the overall electrical generation workforce.
- 12X = Rate above the overall economy at which solar and wind energy industries are hiring new workers.
- 200,000 = Total combined coal, gas and oil jobs in electrical generation.
- 2 million = American jobs in energy efficient products and services.
- 100,000 = Total combined wind energy jobs in the U.S., twice the number recorded in 2013 by the American Wind Energy Association.
- 700,000 = Jobs in the motor vehicle industry focused on increasing fuel economy or transitioning to alternative fuels.
- 250,000 = Employees working with alternative fuels vehicles, including natural gas, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, all electric, and fuel cell/hydrogen vehicles.
According to the Department of Energy’s 2017 Energy and Employment Report, the solar industry employs more people than coal, oil and gas industries combined. Clean electricity jobs will drive America’s electric energy economy, exceeding fossil fuel jobs by at least five to one. Politicians looking to grow long-term jobs can ill afford to ignore clean energy.
The answer isn’t to save these dying industries, but to transition their workers into clean energy jobs with a future for themselves and their families. We’ve all heard about miners worrying that coal is the only thing they’ve ever known, going back generations. However, the fact is that change is coming, and fossil-fuel workers have a choice: they can embrace the change or watch their livelihoods die along with coal mining.
Can coal jobs translate to clean energy jobs? According to the above-mentioned EDF report, “wind turbine technician” is the fastest growing profession in the U.S. Forty-six percent of large solar and wind firms have hired additional workers over the past two years to meet growing demand.
The other big jobs winner is the solar industry. According to a Harvard Business Review study, with minimal retraining, coal miners could laterally transfer to similar jobs in clean energy. For instance, an operations engineer in the coal industry could become a manufacturing technician in solar; explosives experts, ordnance handlers, and blasters in the coal industry could use their skills and experience to become commercial solar technicians. Even janitors in the coal industry could become entry-level mechanical solar panel assemblers. The types of jobs in the solar business are many and varied, from high- to low-skilled, and the pay is attractive at all levels of education. All of these former coal workers would stand to see a 10% increase in pay on average. For most, retraining would involve only a short course or on-the-job training.
Fossil fuels, particularly the coal industry, are a sinking ship. The handwriting is on the wall. Young coal workers, especially, would be well advised to consider retraining for solar jobs now. Clean energy positions can be found in every state of the nation. Click here for a state-by-state breakdown.
The president and his administration should take a hard look at the real facts about the clean energy. In the face of the federal hobbling of the EPA and DOE, the states must step forward to legislate for strong energy efficiency and renewable energy policies.