Will Alternative Energy Development Create More Jobs?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
[Editor’s Note: This question has been archived as a historical concern and will no longer be updated.]
Sep. 23, 2020
Adnan Z. Amin, MPhil, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), wrote in his May 27, 2016 article “The Economics of Renewable Energy: Falling Costs and Rising Employment,” available at the Huffington Post website:
“Renewable energy is not just about saving the environment any more. It is now also about stimulating the economy, creating jobs, generating new sources for growth, increasing income and improving trade balances… What’s more, if we succeed in doubling the global share of renewables, IRENA [International Renewable Energy Agency] predicts that jobs in the renewable energy sector would easily exceed 16 million jobs by 2030…
The economics of renewable energy are now undeniable. It has never been more economically feasible to create jobs, bring modern energy services to the 1.3 billion people without energy access, improve air quality, improve health and also avoid dangerous and irreversible climate change, all through renewable energy investment.”May 27, 2016 - Adnan Z. Amin, MPhil
Ryan Koronowski, MS, Research Director at ThinkProgress, wrote in his Jan. 12, 2016 article “US Solar Created More Jobs Than Oil and Gas Extraction,” available at the Think Progress website:
“Over the last year, the solar industry added jobs twelve times faster than the rest of the economy, even more than the jobs created by the oil and gas extraction and pipeline sectors combined.
The Solar Foundation released its annual Solar Jobs Census Tuesday, and found that for the third straight year, the solar workforce grew 20 percent in the United States. According to the census, the industry added 35,052 jobs, elevating its grand total to 208,859. That builds on the 31,000 jobs added the year before, and 23,600 added the year before that…
The census found that even just the U.S. solar installation sector employed 77 percent more people than the coal mining industry. Installers have reported the most job growth by far, with project development, sales, and distribution also rising.”Jan. 12, 2016 - Ryan Koronowski, MS
Kirsten Korosec, MS, Reporter at Fortune Magazine, wrote in her Jan. 16, 2015 article “In U.S., There are Twice as Many Solar Workers as Coal Miners,” available at fortune.com:
“The company’s expansion is indicative of what’s happening within the broader solar industry. More than 31,000 new solar jobs were created in the U.S. in 2014 bringing the total to 173,807—a 21.8 percent increase in employment since November 2013…
The solar industry is still dwarfed by the 9.8 million workers that the American Petroleum Industry says are employed [by] the oil and gas industry. However, the Solar Foundation is quick to point out the industry is starting to surpass some fossil fuel-related job categories. Solar already employs more people than coal mining, which has 93,185 workers, and has added 50 percent more jobs in 2014 than the oil and gas pipeline construction industry (10,529) and the crude petroleum and natural gas extraction industry (8,688) did combined, according to the Solar Foundation.
One out of every 78 new jobs created in the U.S. over the past 12 months were created by the solar industry, representing nearly 1.3 percent of all jobs created in the country.”Jan. 16, 2015 - Kirsten Korosec, MS
Van Jones, JD, President of Green For All, stated the following in his Jan. 13, 2009 testimony “Opportunities for Green Growth: Myths & Realities About Green Jobs,” presented at the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming hearing “Stimulus Package and Energy: Creating Jobs, Opportunities for All,” available at the House Global Warming website:
“Citizens and community members everywhere are seeking smart solutions to our two biggest problems – the economic downturn and the ecological collapse.
The nation is finally realizing that the solutions to these twin crises are linked. That is because nearly everything that is good for the environment – and practically everything that is good in the fight against global warming – is a job.
Solar panels don’t install themselves. Wind turbines don’t manufacture themselves. Homes and buildings don’t retrofit or weatherize themselves. In our industrial society, trees don’t even PLANT themselves, anymore. Real people must do all of that work…
In the long run, smart policy and investment will drive down prices for clean, renewable, homegrown energy sources. But if we cling to the old, carbon-intensive energy technologies, then the price we all pay – in volatile economic costs, in climate disruption and in threats to our national security – will continue to climb. And the poor will be hit – first and worst – by every one of those rising costs. A well thought out shift to a clean energy economy offers more work, more wealth and better health to disadvantaged communities than does any plausible, business-as-usual scenario…
In a time of economic peril, let us never forget that everything that is required to make America’s economy cleaner, greener and more resilient is a career pathway for someone. Or a business contract. Or an entrepreneurial opportunity. We can power America through this recession by repowering America with clean energy. We can create millions of jobs that will make our people wealthier and the Earth healthier. Let us begin.”Jan. 13, 2009 - Van Jones, JD
The United States Conference of Mayors stated the following in their Oct. 2008 report “Current and Potential Green Jobs in the US Economy,” available at usmayors.org:
“The economic advantages of the Green Economy include the macroeconomic benefits of investment in new technologies, greater productivity, improvements in the US balance of trade, and increased real disposable income across the nation…
For each alternative resource type, there are jobs created in manufacturing the necessary materials, construction of new facilities, and operation and maintenance (O&M) of those facilities…
The bulk of jobs related to wind infrastructure will come in the manufacturing of equipment. The technology of wind electricity is relatively new, but the manufacturing base for its production is very similar to past products. Every state in the country has firms and a labor force with experience making products similar to the blades, gearboxes, brakes, hubs, cooling fans, couplings, drives, cases, bearings, generators, towers and sensors that make up a wind tower. These jobs fall into the familiar durable manufacturing sectors of plastics and rubber, primary metals, fabricated metal products, machinery, computer and electronic products, and electrical equipment. Cities across the country have the capacity to attract job growth in these important manufacturing sectors along the nation’s path to a new energy infrastructure.
Many potential manufacturing jobs in the solar industry are high tech jobs in the Semiconductor and Related Devices subsector. Nearly one-quarter of existing jobs in this sector are in California, but many other states have a significant presence too. But solar infrastructure also requires components from more traditional sectors such plastics and rubber, fabricated metal products, and electrical equipment…
Under our chosen scenarios, renewable power generation would lead to the generation of more than 1.2 million jobs…
The potential growth in Green Jobs is significant in that it could be the fastest growing segment of the United States economy over the next several decades.”Oct. 2008 - United States Conference of Mayors
The American Solar Energy Society (ASES) stated the following in their 2007 report “Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency: Economic Drivers for the 21st Century,” available at ases.org:
“Renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies (RE&EE) are driving significant economic growth in the United States. In 2006, these industries generated 8.5 million new jobs, nearly $970 billion in revenue, more than $100 billion in industry profits, and more than $150 billion in increased federal, state, and local government tax revenues. Additionally, RE&EE provided important stimulus to the beleaguered U.S. manufacturing industry, displaced imported oil, and helped reduce the U.S. trade deficit.
To put this in perspective, RE&EE sales outpaced the combined sales of the three largest U.S. corporations. Total sales for Wal-Mart, Exxon- Mobil, and General Motors in 2006 were $905 billion.
If U.S. policymakers aggressively commit to programs that support the sustained orderly development of RE&EE, the news gets even better. According to research conducted by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and Management Information Services, Inc. (MISI), the renewable energy and energy efficiency industry could—in a crash effort—generate up to $4.5 trillion in revenue in the United States and create 40 million new jobs by the year 2030. These 40 million jobs would represent nearly one out of every four jobs in 2030, and many would be jobs that could not easily be outsourced.”2007 - American Solar Energy Society (ASES)
George Sterzinger, Executive Director of the Renewable Energy Policy Project, stated the following in his Dec. 6, 2007 article “The Economic Promise of Renewable Energy,” published in New Labor Forum:
“Unlike fossil energy, which is discovered, renewable energy is conceived and created in labs and universities, brought to commercial readiness by developers, manufactured as component parts, and assembled into finished products. In the end, renewable energy is manufactured energy. A national energy policy that provides energy security and stabilizes climate change will create a huge demand for renewable energy projects, which can, with the right set of policies, be used to revitalize the manufacturing sector and create the workforce to serve that sector…
Over the past decade, our energy policy has been concentrated almost entirely on supporting the development of fossil fuel resources. To the extent renewable energy was supported, it was through a patchwork of state level requirements to install renewable energy projects combined with erratic federal incentives in the form of production tax credits. Absolutely no attention was paid to supporting the development of a full-fledged renewable industry…
[M]odern wind turbines are complex machines that require manufacturing components ranging from gearboxes to electronic controls to the high-tech carbon fiber composites used to make the turbine blades. When the analysis of economic benefits shifts from project development to component manufacturing, a completely different picture emerges. For wind alone, there are more than 16,000 firms active in the industrial sectors where components would be manufactured. When the analysis is expanded to include other renewable energy technologies like photovoltaic, biomass, and geothermal sources, the number of firms grows to more than 42,000. In the course of a decade, the new investment will exceed $160 billion, and create more than 2,000,000 full-time equivalent jobs (a full-time equivalent job is 2,000 hours of required labor).”Dec. 6, 2007 - George Sterzinger
The San Diego Union-Tribune wrote in its June 4, 2015 op-ed “The Green Jobs Myth: Here We Go Again,” available at the San Diego Union-Tribune website:
“Grand claims about environmental laws and regulations creating a flood of green jobs have been made for nearly a decade. In 2006, after signing AB 32 – the state’s landmark law responding to global warming – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger predicted it would create a new pillar in California’s economy. In 2008, when running for president, Barack Obama promised creation of 5 million green jobs nationally. In 2010, when running for governor, Jerry Brown promised creation of 500,000 new green jobs in the Golden State.
None of these assertions ever came remotely true. A 2011 New York Times analysis depicted Obama’s and Brown’s rhetoric as a ‘pipe dream’ and concluded that ‘federal and state efforts to stimulate creation of green jobs have largely failed.’ The granddaddy of liberal think tanks, the Brookings Institution, noted that green jobs grew more slowly from 2003 to 2010 than regular jobs in the U.S., and reported that the number of green jobs in Silicon Valley had actually gone down during that period. In the first quarter of 2014, only 5,600 green energy jobs were created in the entire nation, according to the Energy Collective website.
The McKinsey management consulting group’s assessment of a decade ago – that green jobs are a niche of the economy, not a pillar – has been confirmed over and over again. The New York Times, the Brookings Institution and McKinsey are not subsidiaries of ExxonMobil; they have credibility on this issue.”June 4, 2015 - San Diego Union-Tribune
Steve Everley, Managing Director at FTI Consulting, wrote in his Jan. 7, 2016 article “Stanford’s Jacobson Spins Energy Misinformation (100% Renewables Fantasy),” available at the Master Resource website:
“Environmental groups frequently claim that replacing fossil fuels with renewables will lead to more job opportunities. But according to a study that those same groups frequently cite, it’s not that simple.
According to research compiled by Stanford University professor Mark Jacobson, whose recent study outlines a ‘roadmap’ for transitioning to 100% renewable energy, replacing fossil fuels with renewable technologies like wind and solar would actually cause a net loss of 1.2 million long-term jobs.
Jacobson’s data break out the number of long-term jobs that would be eliminated by sector. In transportation, more than 2.4 million men and women would be put out of work. Over 800,000 people working to produce oil and natural gas would lose their jobs. Nearly 90,000 jobs connected to coal mining would be wiped out. All told, more than 3.8 million long-term jobs would be lost, far more than the nearly 2.6 million long-term jobs that Jacobson estimated would be created.”Jan. 7, 2016 - Steve Everley
The Institute for Energy Research stated the following in its Jan. 2009 report “Green Jobs: Fact or Fiction?,” available at the Institute for Energy Research website:
“Unfortunately, it is highly questionable whether a government campaign to spur ‘green jobs’ would have net economic benefits. Indeed, the distortionary impacts of government intrusion into energy markets could prematurely force business to abandon current production technologies for more expensive ones. Furthermore, there would likely be negative economic consequences from forcing higher-cost alternative energy sources upon the economy. These factors would likely increase consumer energy costs and the costs of a wide array of energy intensive goods, slow GDP growth and ironically may yield no net job gains. More likely, they would result in net job losses.”Jan. 2009 - Institute for Energy Research
Ben Lieberman, JD, Senior Policy Analyst in Energy and the Environment in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation, stated the following in his Jan. 26, 2009 article “Green Stimulus: Tying Economic Package to Energy and Environment Plan Is Not Workable,” available at heritage.org:
“There is plenty of reason to believe that Congress’s proposed stimulus package will not work…
First and foremost, it should be noted that a green stimulus is an inherent contradiction in terms. The environmental movement itself is, by design, anti-growth. After all, these are the individuals and organizations that regularly fight to stop new factories, power plants, and construction projects…
Part of the green stimulus involves using taxpayer dollars to subsidize renewable energy, especially wind and solar for electric generation and biofuels for transportation. This would backfire and hurt the economy. It is well established that affordable energy is critical to economic health, and higher energy costs will hurt the prospects for an economic recovery and post-recovery growth. But virtually all of the alternative energy sources that are part of the green stimulus are more expensive than their conventional counterparts…
Support for renewables would likely cost more jobs than are created. For example, subsidies for wind and solar energy would, at least from the narrow perspective of the wind and solar industries, create new jobs as more of these systems are manufactured and installed. But the tax dollars needed to help pay for them cost jobs elsewhere, as would the pricey electricity they produce.
The only reason to consider promoting these renewables is for their environmental benefits, which are questionable in most cases. But the economic argument for saddling the nation with this costlier energy falls completely flat. Some suggest that an entire ‘new’ economy could be based on renewable energy sources, but the only thing new about it would be how weak and globally uncompetitive it is.”Jan. 26, 2009 - Ben Lieberman, JD
Robert P. Murphy, PhD, Economist with the Institute for Energy Research, stated the following in his Nov. 15, 2008 article “The High Costs Of ‘Green Recovery,'” published in Forbes:
“Hard times stir our appetites for easy answers, but those are too often deceptive and dangerous. The Green Recovery plan is a prime example–its proponents would have us believe that pouring taxpayer money into renewable energy like solar and wind would create an estimated 5 million new jobs, end our reliance on imported oil and give us clean air.
As welcome as those results would be, they’re based on the illusion that renewable fuels are an energy panacea and that the market is ignoring an easy answer that wise politicians can clearly see. But the facts just don’t support this. Yes, renewable fuels will constitute a part of our energy mix in the future, but they represent only a tiny fraction of our energy needs and won’t lead us out of the economic and environmental wilderness…
Taking into account the EIA’s projected increases in electricity demand, the renewable sector would need to grow 19% per year for 22 years consecutively to meet U.S. demand by the year 2030. Clearly, these targets are overly ambitious and impractical…
The government cannot create wealth or jobs; all it can do is take from Peter to pay Paul, opening up a job in ‘green industry A’ by eliminating one in ‘fossil fuel industry B.'”Nov. 15, 2008 - Robert P. Murphy, PhD
Kenneth P. Green, D.Env (Doctor of Environmental Science and Engineering), Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, stated the following in his Nov. 7, 2008 article “Obama’s ‘Green Jobs’ Plan Will Not Work,” published in The American magazine:
“Obama vows to create around 5 million new jobs by increasing federal spending on renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and biofuels…
As many experts have observed, the science behind the Obama plan is dubious, particularly when it comes to ethanol. The renewable energy industry simply does not have the capacity—at least not yet—to power large swathes of our fossil fuel–driven economy…
We are to believe that replacing conventional energy sources (especially coal) with renewables (especially wind) will create five million new ‘green jobs.’ The hope is that armies of workers will be enlisted to build tens of thousands of windmills; to manufacture and deploy solar-power installations; to harvest, transport, and process huge amounts of biofuel feedstock; and to string the power lines that will allow the U.S. power grid to incorporate a major expansion of intermittent energy.
Unfortunately, the idea of government ‘job creation’ is a classic example of the broken window fallacy…
The ‘broken windows’ in this case would be lost jobs and lost capital in the coal, oil, gas, nuclear, and automobile industries. These industries currently employ more than one million people directly. Conventional power plants would be closed and massive amounts of energy infrastructure would be dismantled. After breaking these windows, the Obama plan would then create new jobs in the renewable energy sector. The costs of replacing those windows would ultimately be passed on to taxpayers and energy consumers.”Nov. 7, 2008 - Kenneth P. Green, D.Env
Margo Thorning, PhD, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist at the American Council for Capital Formation, stated the following in her Sep. 18, 2008 testimony “Strategies to Promote US Economic Recovery and Long-Run Growth: What Role for Energy and Climate Change Policy,” presented at the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming hearing “The Green Road to Economic Recovery,” available at accf.org:
“Rising energy costs have played a role in the current U.S. economic slowdown and security of supply remains an important concern for households, business, and government. Some suggest that enlarging the current U.S. effort to replace conventional fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) with renewables could provide new jobs and help restore strong economic growth…
[N]egative economic consequences… would occur from replacing lower cost energy with higher cost energy [from renewables]…
[P]olicymakers need to promote U.S. energy supplies of all types and avoid unrealistic climate change policies. Allowing increased access to both offshore and on-shore areas for drilling and exploration would also have a positive impact.”Sep. 18, 2008 - Margo Thorning, PhD