According to new research from Duke University, the coal industry is shedding jobs by the thousands, and renewable energies like solar and wind power are adding them at a faster rate. Natural gas jobs growth outpaces them all, however.
Their research found that between 2008 and 2012, the U.S. coal industry lost about 50,000 jobs, or 12% of the total during the five-year period studied. This is likely attributed to increasing regulation and tough competition from renewable energy and natural gas. The coal jobs lost weren’t associated with electricity production.
Over that same period, renewable energy added 79,000 jobs and natural gas brought in 94,000 new workers. When indirect jobs were taken into consideration, wind, solar and natural gas created 220,000 jobs. Hydroelectric and nuclear power were not considered as their job numbers tend to remain steady over time.
Each year that passes by, coal’s position as the largest energy resource is even more imperiled. In 2014, the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicted that about 60 gigawatts of coal power will retire by 2016. Another report from The Solar Foundation found that there were more than 173,000 solar jobs in the United States in 2014. That number marks as 22% increase over the previous year.
When accounting for these jobs numbers, researchers didn’t consider construction, installation, and manufacturing, but they did account for operations and maintenance such as transportation, distribution, extraction and mining. In terms of fossil fuel jobs, construction and installation are short-term jobs. The same goes for construction. Overall, they made up a fraction of the jobs numbers.
With wind, however, O&M jobs and construction and installation jobs were about equal. For solar, O&M is the smaller figure. This skews the results a bit because it didn’t consider distributed solar and those installation jobs. The Solar Foundation predicts that up to 210,000 solar jobs in 2015 will be installation jobs.
The one unfortunate footnote to all of this good news is that these jobs aren’t being distributed equally across the United States. Coal jobs saw most of their decline in states like Kentucky and West Virginia. Clean tech and natural gas sectors did not replace the lost jobs in those areas.
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