The findings of a new U.S.report bolster climate justice movement arguments that transitioning to renewables will not only save the planet but save the economy.
The U.S. Department of Energy found that in 2016 solar and wind industries created more electricity generating jobs than coal, oil, and gas combined, despite the fact that renewables still only account for a small fraction of total electricity production.
The findings — released in last month’s U.S. Energy and Employment Report — bolster the arguments of many in the climate justice movement that a transition away from fossil fuels will not only save the planet but save the economy by generating millions of jobs.
The report found that the solar and wind industries — including manufacturing, installation, and transmission — employed 476,000 workers in the U.S. electricity sector last year, compared to just 187,117 employees in coal, oil, and natural gas electricity generation combined, despite the fact that fossil fuels still account for more than 90 percent of the electricity produced in the country.
While solar energy only accounts for 1.3 percent of the U.S. electricity grid, it creates more than twice as many jobs in as the coal industry, which alone accounts for approximately 30 percent of the electricity generated in the U.S.
The report suggests that even when it comes to jobs, the Trump administration’s priorities are well behind the times.
While U.S. president Donald Trump has loudly promised to revive the devastated coal industry by gutting environmental regulations, the solar industry — which the president has consistently bashed — quietly saw a 25 percent increase in employment in 2016 “largely due to the construction related to the significant buildout of new solar generation capacity,” the report stated.
The report hints at a similar pattern in the manufacturing industry.
Both during and after his campaign Trump has trumpeted his plan to revive the U.S. manufacturing industry with bold threats against U.S. car manufacturers who have looked to move production to Mexico.
However, in 2016 the report found that almost as many Americans are employed producing energy-efficient products and services as in the automotive sector.
There are currently 2.2 million Americans employed in the design, installation, and manufacture of energy efficiency products and services, whereas the entire U.S. automotive industry, including component parts manufacturing, employs just over 2.4 million workers.
The energy efficiency industry has a projected growth rate, according to the report, of over 20 percent in both construction and manufacturing related jobs, whereas in the auto sector manufacturing job growth is projected to remain flat.
The findings of the report — released quietly in January with no response from the Trump white house — appears to confirm the conclusions of climate justice activist Naomi Klein, who in her 2016 Leap Manifesto wrote that renewables “will not merely light our homes but redistribute wealth, deepen our democracy, [and] strengthen our economy.”
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