Biden claims clean energy jobs can replace fossil fuel ones. Is this true?
According to the US Department of Energy and Employment, nearly 1.2 million Americans have jobs within the fossil fuel industry.
- Last week, President Joe Biden gave his 100 day speech in which he discussed the opportunities that clean energy jobs provide.
- “When we invest in climate resilience and infrastructure, we create opportunities for everyone. That’s at the heart of our jobs plan that I proposed here in the United States,” Biden said in his speech. “It’s how our nation intends to build an economy that gives everybody a fair shot.”
- According to the US Department of Energy and Employment, nearly 1.2 million Americans have jobs within the fossil fuel industry.
- After the Dakota Access Pipeline – a 1,172-mile-long (1,886 km) underground crude oil pipeline in the US – many Americans are asking the same question: can someone working in the fossil fuel industry expect to be able to transfer their skills and experience to a clean energy job or will they simply be out of a job?
Dr. Pearce and Energy Economics
- Dr. Joshua M. Pearce, an academic engineer at Michigan Tech who has worked in energy economics states that “yes, fossil fuel workers can transfer their skills to the renewable energy sector.”
- Energy economics is the study of the supply and use of energies within a society.
- Energy economics also considers the most efficient way for energy to be consumed within a society.
- Think of it like this: the production of electricity comes with costs and energy economics is a field of study that helps determine those long-term and short-term costs.
Coal workers transitioning to clean energy
- Dr. Pearce collaborated on a study that looked specifically at the retraining necessary to move coal workers to solar after coal companies started to go bankrupt because they could no longer compete with low-cost solar energy.
- TMS asked Dr. Pearce whether or not Biden’s speech regarding clean energy jobs had any and he referred back to the study he collaborated on:
- “Not only is it possible for coal workers to transition with a modest amount of retraining – but the average coal worker would see a salary increase if they retrained to move laterally in the most similar position. We also found the annual pay was generally better at all levels of education, even with the lowest-skilled jobs. For example, janitors in the coal industry could increase their salaries by 7% by becoming low-skilled mechanical assemblers in the solar industry.”
- The study in which Dr. Pearce collaborated on found that after retraining, technical workers, which make up most workers in the coal industry, would make more money in the solar industry than they do in coal.
- Dr. Pearce also noted that the only workers who would see a decrease in salary in moving from the fossil fuel industry to green energy were those in the upper management and chief executive officer positions.
Retraining for Fossil Fuel Workers
- There seems to be ample opportunity for potential wealth benefits for employees transitioning from a fossil fuel job to a clean energy job.
- While there are opportunities for former fossil fuel workers to find jobs in the clean energy sector, it is important that these workers are retrained.
- Dr. Pearce noted that after their study came out, “someone pointed out that the coal CEO salary for only one year was so high that it could cover the retraining for all of the coal workers for the company.”
- He also acknowledged that this was unlikely to happen, “so those workers in antiquated energy industries should immediately look into retraining opportunities in their area for green energy jobs.”
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