Above Photo: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin
Trump’s upcoming executive order meant to boost fossil fuel jobs may end up harming an even bigger job creator — renewable energy.
Nationally, clean energy jobs outnumber fossil fuel jobs by more than 2.5 to 1, according to a new Sierra Club analysis of Department of Energy jobs data. And when it comes to coal and gas — two sectors President Donald Trump has promised to bolster through his upcoming executive order on energy regulation — clean energy jobs outnumber jobs dealing with those two fossil fuels by 5 to 1.
“Right now, clean energy jobs already overwhelm dirty fuels in nearly every state across America, and that growth is only going to continue as clean energy keeps getting more affordable and accessible by the day,” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said in a statement. “These facts make it clear that Donald Trump is attacking clean energy jobs purely in order to boost the profits of fossil fuel billionaires.”
According to the Sierra Club’s analysis, nearly every state in the country has more jobs in clean energy than fossil fuels — just nine states have more jobs in fossil fuels than in clean energy. Some of largest discrepancies between clean energy jobs and fossil fuel jobs were in states like Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, where jobs in renewable energy “vastly exceeded jobs in the fossil fuel industry,” according to Sierra Club’s analysis. Many of these places also happen to be states that helped Trump win the presidential election in November.
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Clean energy jobs have seen incredible growth in recent years, with solar and wind jobs growing at a rate 12 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy. According to a 2015 report from the Environmental Defense Fund, renewable energy jobs in the United States enjoyed a 6 percent compound annual growth rate between 2012 and 2015. Fossil fuel jobs, by contrast, had a negative 4.5 percent compound annual growth rate over the same time period. And, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nation’s fastest growing profession over the next decade is likely to be a wind turbine technician.
Despite strong national growth, however, the United States still lags behind both China and Brazil when it comes to the total share of renewable jobs globally. Renewable energy employs 8.1 million people worldwide, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) — and 3.5 million of those jobs are located in China. The Chinese government has already announced plans to invest heavily in the renewable energy sector in the next three years, aiming to create 13 million more renewable energy jobs by 2020.
The Trump administration, in contrast to China, has shown little interest in spurring innovation or job creation in the renewable industry. The administration’s proposed “skinny budget” cuts funding to Department of Energy programs aimed at investing in clean energy innovation. Programs targeting energy efficiency — a sector that supports 2.2 million jobs nationwide — would also be cut under Trump’s proposed budget.
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“It’s clear this administration is talking about energy jobs the wrong way,” Sierra Club’s Brune said. “If we truly want to grow our economy, reduce air and water pollution, protect public health and create huge numbers of news jobs for American workers, we must seize the opportunity that is right in front of our eyes: invest more in clean energy including solar, wind, storage and energy efficiency.”
Despite a lack of support from the Trump administration, several cities and states are pursuing policies aimed at incentivizing the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Massachusetts is currently considering a bill that would mandate the state obtain all of its energy — electricity, transportation, and heating — from renewable resources by 2050. And 25 U.S. cities have committed to transitioning to renewable energy, with a handful of those pledges coming after the November presidential election.
Even among Trump supporters, policies to incentivize the growth of clean energy are overwhelmingly popular — 75 percent of Trump voters think that the federal government should take steps to accelerate the development and use of clean energy in the United States. Only 58 percent of Trump supporters want to see more emphasis on natural gas, and just 38 percent want more emphasis on coal.