Sunday, December 29, 2013

Renewable Energy Is Not A Big Job Creator: Fracking Is Energy's Biggest Job Creator

From The Wall Street Journal, "Six Myths About Renewable Energy: The impact on jobs and other assumptions that don't hold up anymore" by Keith Johnson:
But renewable energy has not been the job creator that its boosters envisioned. While the amount of wind and solar power has more than doubled since President Obama took office, renewable-energy jobs have not.

The hardest part of sizing up green jobs is figuring out what a green job is. The Bureau of Labor Statistics came up with an expansive definition: goods or services that benefit the environment or make a company more environmentally friendly. According to the most recent data from the BLS, the U.S. had 3.4 million green jobs in 2011. But the categories are generous, to say the least. Private-sector green jobs included petroleum and coal-products manufacturing (3,244 jobs); school and employee bus drivers (166,916); logging (8,837); paper mills (18,167); and iron and steel mills (33,812). The numbers get so fuzzy as to become all but meaningless as an indicator of employment potential from clean energy.

Direct-employment numbers from renewable energies are clearer. In 2012, the wind industry said it employed about 81,000, the solar industry employed about 119,000, and geothermal energy may have employed about 20,000. The Hydropower Association estimates the sector employs between 200,000 and 300,000 people today.

Not only are those numbers quite modest, but in broad terms they haven't increased much since 2008, before the recent strong growth in renewables. In 2008, the wind industry said it employed about 85,000 people. So while installed wind capacity more than doubled, wind employment shrank. Solar employment stood at about 93,000 in 2010. Two years—and a ninefold increase in solar power—later, solar employment had increased just 28%.

The contrast between the promise and the reality of green jobs becomes even clearer when compared with other energy sectors. Coal, for example, is shrinking as a share of the U.S. electricity mix. Nevertheless, total coal-sector employment of about 150,000 is the highest since the mid-1990s.

And, by far, the biggest jobs story in the energy patch has come from the oil and gas boom. According to a fresh study by energy consultancy IHS Cera, unconventional oil and gas production—hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas and tight oil—accounted for about 360,000 direct jobs.

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