Energy production has provided jobs for many Americans for decades. As an integral component of U.S. employment, advances in electricity generation will inevitably foster changes in job distribution. The push to transition away from fossil fuel energy generation indicates a reduction in traditional power’s job market and growth in employment surrounding clean power.
Coal, oil, and hydroelectric power have historically been the three largest energy employers, but natural gas and solar have recently exploded in jobs and production. The different energy sources require varying levels of labor, with fossil fuel energy production requiring fewer workers than solar. For example, as of 2016, there are more people working in the solar industry than on oil rigs and gas fields in the U.S.(CNN). This is quite impressive, given that solar currently accounts for much less energy production compared to fossil fuels. Fossil fuels account for 80 percent of our energy production, while renewable sources account for 11 percent (EIA).
New technologies and techniques such as fracking and horizontal drilling for extracting fossil fuels have reduced the amount of labor needed by the oil industry. These processes also tend to degrade the environment faster than previous rates. Mountaintop removal strategies utilized by the coal mining industry illustrate the ecological devastation and lesser employment needs now used to extract the same amount of coal (Rosenbaum). The burning of coal and other fossil fuels furthers the environmental impacts of the hydrocarbon industries, perpetuating devastating effects at a much larger scale, contributing to acid rain and global climate change.
The fossil fuel industries are often dangerous work environments for employees, with toxic chemical exposure and harsh conditions.
Solar compared to its declining counterparts has a much higher growth potential, creating more jobs as it expands (CNN). This growth comes with the benefit of minimizing the effect of greenhouse gas emissions (solar energy produces zero CO2 emissions) and environmental degradation. With much higher job growth potential, investing in solar energy will help our economy and environment simultaneously.
An Essay by Allterra Interns.
Rosenbaum, W. A. (2013). Environmental politics and policy. Cq Press.