Before reading this post, please read the About Me page, as it serves as a form of disclaimer and gives some context in regards to the purpose of this blog.
In the US, one of the biggest arguments for the continual use of fossil fuels is all of the jobs that are reliant on those industries. The extraction of coal, oil, natural gas, etc. is one major job sector that has been consistently decreasing over the years. For coal mining specifically, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has information available on the number of coal mining jobs for every month since 1985. In January 1985 there were about 170,500 coal mining jobs in the US. This declined consistently to January 2004 where the number of jobs was only 68,800. There was a slight increase the following years until it declined again at the start of 2012 to the preliminary estimate of about 53,000 May of 2018.
There is no single reason for the decline of these jobs. Advancing technology has removed the need for large numbers of miners with pickaxes extracting coal by hand by allowing for large machines to carve up the ground and gather coal en masse. Additionally, power plants becoming more efficient or moving away from coal towards cheaper alternatives allows for coal mining to decrease as demand is lower. Regardless, it is very unlikely that coal mining jobs will return to pre-2000s levels.
The 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report examines jobs across the energy sector in 2016 and breaks it down into different categories. Electric Power Generation and Fuels technologies employed 1.9 million workers in 2016. This focuses on jobs in power plants and refining fuels rather than extraction or distribution. Also included are low-carbon emitting energy sources such as renewables, nuclear, and lower emitting natural gas. Of the 1.9 million workers, 1.1 million work in traditional coal, oil, and gas, while 800,000 work with the low carbon emitting sources. Just under 374,000 people work for either partly or fully for solar firms, with 260,000 working mostly on solar energy alone. For wind farms across the country, 102,000 people are employed. For job creation in these two sectors in 2016, solar grew by 25% and wind grew by 32%. As renewable energy sources continue to grow in popularity and availability, new installations will be made, new companies will be founded, and plenty of jobs may be created in coming years.
The Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy published a list of the 5 fastest growing jobs in clean energy on April 24, 2017. Wind turbine technicians were the fastest growing job in the US at the time of publication, with an impressive 108% growth expected by 2024. As more wind farms are set up across the country, more and more people will need to be trained to climb to the top of these massive turbines for maintenance (something I could NEVER do) to ensure clean energy continues to be fed into the grid. Clicking the image below will take you to a YouTube video showing a crew performing maintenance on a turbine.
It was estimated that in 2016, one out of every 50 new jobs came from the solar industry. The core of the industry lies with the solar installers. These people could work for large companies to build solar farms, or could be smaller businesses that help businesses or households save on energy by installing smaller solar panels on the buildings. Clean car engineers are becoming more and more in demand as companies such as Tesla innovate the automobile industry with increasingly Eco-friendly vehicles. These vehicles don’t have to be electric cars; hydrogen and natural gas are also some alternatives to traditional gasoline that are significantly less polluting. Construction companies are also benefiting greatly from the push to being more green. The construction industry hosts nearly 1.4 million jobs working with energy efficiency. Construction companies have roughly 74% of their workforce spends at least half of their time on improving energy efficiency. A variety of jobs are required to build these environmentally sustainable buildings from architects to carpenters and heavy equipment operators. Sustainability professionals are hired by companies to help make sure companies have buildings that can energy-efficient, sustainable, and resilient to future problems. They also work with companies to plan their growth to be more sustainable so that they are ahead of the curve in terms of green energy and emissions reductions.
The changes to infrastructure that would need to be done to accommodate more renewable energy plants hooked up to the grid. New power lines would need to be installed that lead to new plants and can handle the extra power into the grid. Also battery farms will need to be installed and the power grid will need to be adjusted and updated to accommodate vast amounts of energy storage. Essentially, while a large number of jobs may be lost as fossil fuels are slowly phased out of use, plenty of jobs are being made to install, maintain, and prepare for renewable energy sources. Hopefully workers for fossil fuel industries can be retrained to find employment in renewable energy.