Could green energy be a major player in the jobs market?
President Trump is fossil-fuel friendly but renewable energy provides five times more jobs than coal mines in rural communities.
US wind-farm developers and suppliers employed more than 100,000 workers at the end of the year and the solar industry had more than double that. Furthermore they are a significant source of employment in the rural states that supported Trump’s presidential campaign. According to the US Energy Department, that compares to 65,971 coal mining jobs at the start of last year.
Solar and wind industry leaders say that rural areas that missed out on economic growth under Barack Obama’s presidency are now benefiting from the expansion of clean energy.
“I reject the idea that there has to be a winner and loser,” says Abigail Hopper, the recently hired chief executive officer of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “These are good paying, local jobs that the solar industry is creating everywhere.”
Hopper is urging the Trump administration to continue to support pro-solar policies, which helped create more than 200,000 jobs in the past decade, with more than 9,000 mostly small businesses that deliver and install panels.
According to American Wind Energy Association CEO Tom Kiernan, the top ten congressional districts for wind energy are all in Republican-dominated states such as Iowa and Texas.
“We’re hiring workers in the rust belt,” Kiernan said in an interview. “We’re helping families keep farms they’ve held for generations. The lifeblood of our industry is in rural America.”
Nico Pestel writing on the employment effects of green energy policies says, “A change in policy may have a positive gross employment effect, creating additional green jobs, but it could also crowd out investment-induced employment in non-green sectors. This change usually comes with subsidies for renewable energy sources, making energy more expensive for firms and households.” He points out that neither job creation nor job destruction are adequate arguments to put forward in the green energy policy debate in industrial countries and concludes that, “…green energy policies should be judged on whether they are able to reduce the emission of ambient air pollutants while securing a reliable supply of energy for industrial production at a reasonable cost.”
Read further IZA World of Labor articles on the environment.