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Reinventing the Wheel - The REAL Green Jobs Story

By x356039 - May 2, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In the accepted limits of debate in Washington and Wall Street the main argument by proponents of the fossil fuel industry is the same as its always been: do you want to protect the environment or create more jobs? They argue expanding fossil fuel exploitation, in spite of the proven risks to the environment and public health, is necessary for the sake of job creation. By building Keystone XL across the Great Plains, opening the Powder River Basin to coal interests, expanding offshore drilling, and opening up new lands to fracking the fossil fuel dinosaurs claim our economy will recover & energy independence will be achieved. When confronted with the facts on clean energy sources like wind and solar power fossil fuel proponents argue clean energy is too expensive. They claim it would not be cost-effective to build a green energy economy and that it would lead to a decline in standard of living.

Quite contrary to the boldest of claims made by those dinosaurs the facts show shifting to a clean energy economy would create more jobs, cost less money, and easily exceed all performance needs. Research by the Renewable & Appropriate Energy Laboratory at University of California, Berkeley shows the fossil fuel industry's claims of better job creation rates compared to green, clean energy are vastly overblown. As shown in this chart below renewable energy sources produce as many if not more jobs per megawatt of capacity as traditional dirty sources of electricity:


Photovoltaic solar, often scorned as the least effective option, blows all the competition out of the water. Photovoltaic solar, from production to installation & maintenance, produces 2 jobs for every job supported by nuclear power, 3 jobs for every job in the coal industry, and a whopping 29 jobs for every one in the natural gas industry, Wind power is no slouch either clocking in at 1.2 jobs per megawatt of capacity for every job in coal and beating natural gas at a solid 9 jobs to 1.

The implementation of these technologies on a massive scale has even greater implications for job creation. Replacing coal, nuclear, and natural gas electrical generation with renewable alternatives would put a swift end to the unemployment crisis. If all electricity produced in the United States came from photovoltaic solar power instead of traditional dirty sources an estimated 15 million new jobs would be added to the economy. Replacing every dirty source with wind power would create an estimated 3 million new jobs. Furthermore there is no question clean energy technology can meet the needs of modern society. In 2008 during the Bush Administration the National Renewable Energy Laboratory released a study arguing if 7% of all rooftop space in the United States were fitted with photovoltaic solar panels enough energy would be produced to meet the needs of the entire country. If 15% of America's estimated wind power capacity was harvested the amount of electricity produced would exceed the total capacity of all electrical generation currently operating in the United States.

The critics' claims of unsustainable cost are equally ill-founded. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance the cost of producing photovoltaic solar equipment dropped 17%, putting it on par with traditional dirty energy sources in terms of cost. These findings are supported by examples from all over the country. A recent study by the Michigan Public Service Commission found the cost per megawatt hour of electricity for new renewable energy projects came in at $82.54, 38% less than the $133 per megawatt hour average for coal plants in the same state. Bloomberg has equally optimistic projections for wind power's decreasing cost showing the price for installation and maintenance of wind power projects has dropped 38% over the past four years. Massachusetts, Virginia, and North Carolina are perfect examples of the savings over dirty power. Each state's population, on average, would save $2 billion if offshore wind power replaced traditional coal-fired plants and meet their current levels of energy consumption without any difficulty.

As the real information on the subject shows fossil fuels are not cheaper, better job creators, or more capable of meeting our energy needs compared to modern clean, green energy. In every category renewable energy sources like photovoltaic solar and wind power decisively beat traditional dirty sources. The truth behind the opposition to clean power by dirty power proponents is not that it is in any way better for our economy or society. Dirty power is more profitable for the owners of the major energy corporations than clean power. When they say clean power is more expensive they don't mean it will be more expensive for the average person. They're really saying it will shrink the size of their bottom line.