Can Biden add energy jobs? | New
NEW YORK (AP) – High paying jobs – a lot of them.
This is the alluring idea around which President Joe Biden is proposing a vast transformation of the energy sector, with the promise to make it much more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. As Biden describes, his plan to invest in infrastructure – and accelerate the shift to renewables and electric vehicles, to more efficient homes and power grid upgrades – would produce jobs at least as good as those who might be lost in dealing with it.
Its plans call for 100% renewable energy in the power sector by 2035. For people who have dedicated careers to the fossil fuel industries, these plans may look more like a serious threat. For the president, however, jobless oil workers could be transferred to other jobs – plugging uncapped oil wells, for example – and thousands more positions would be created to help string power lines and build. electric vehicles and their components.
“We think that’s a lot of jobs to fill, and one of the key questions is, how do we create the right skills base that can help fill those jobs?” said Matt Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass Technologies, a labor market analysis company.
The outlook for the energy industry’s decades to come, as Biden’s plan dictates, includes good wages and benefits, bolstered by a union renaissance.
“I am a trade unionist,” he said at a trade union training center in Pittsburgh. “I support unions, unions have built the middle class, and it’s time they started taking action.”
A faster transition from fossil fuels to renewables would hardly be as simple as long-standing wild problems that turn into solar installers. So many unknowns surpass the transition to greener energy that no one knows how industries and their jobs will evolve in the years to come.
On the one hand, many experts say the transition to electric vehicles is likely to mean fewer factory workers than those currently employed in the production of internal combustion engines and complex transmissions. Electric vehicles have 30-40% fewer moving parts than petroleum-powered vehicles.
Yet economists have warned that climate change poses such a serious threat that the United States must accelerate its transition to renewable energy to ensure its economic security.
COULD GREEN ENERGY JOBS REALLY REPLACE LOST JOBS IN FOSSIL ENERGY?
Even with favorable policies, it may take generations to create jobs in individual industries. During his presidency, for example, Barack Obama encouraged tax incentives for the development of solar and wind power. This effort has enabled progress to be made. Yet solar and wind power remain small sectors of the global energy industry to this day.
“If you think about incentives and disincentives, it’s easy to kill something; it’s hard to create something, ”said Rob Sentz, chief innovation officer at Emsi, a data analytics company.
The renewable energy industry employed around 410,000 people in 2019, including those in the solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, biomass and biofuels industries, according to Burning Glass. For comparison, employment for oil and gas alone in 2020 was 516,000 jobs, including mining, pipelines, refining and other parts of the industry. According to Burning Glass, an additional 485,000 people worked at gas stations, although gas station jobs are technically classified as retail.
“It is a pipe dream to imagine that we will achieve complete decarbonization in a short period of time,” said Sigelman. “Jobs in the carbon economy will continue in large numbers for some time to come.”
That said, Sigelman estimates that the renewable energy industry could grow by up to 22% over the next five years to reach a total of 465,000 jobs.
It depends on the type of job – and who you ask. Many players in the oil and gas industry say they fear their wages will drop if they make the transition to a job in renewable energy. But many economists say incomes can be comparable whether a worker works in an oil field or a wind farm.
The median annual salary for solar installers was around $ 44,650 in 2020, according to Emsi. For wind turbine maintenance technicians, it was about $ 52,100.
In the petroleum industry, derrick operators, rotary rig operators, utility unit operators, and excavation and loading machine operators earned a median annual salary ranging from $ 44,700 to $ 55,000, said Emsi. The median of roustabouts and mining aid was $ 37,000 to $ 39,000.
Oil and gas service technicians earn a median of about $ 39,000 per year, Sigelman said. These workers could, in theory, transition into fields such as electrical technician work, which pays about $ 25,000 more per year, or construction foreman jobs, which have a median of around 27,000. $ more per year.
SOME JOBS MEET THE DIVISION
A point often overlooked in any debate about green energy versus fossil fuel jobs is that the line between the two can blur. To install wind turbines, for example, you need truckers, electricians, and mechanics.
“These are the same people who do the work,” Sentz said. “You call it green, but it’s still a trucker.”
Likewise, jobs related to the installation or repair of power and transmission lines are critical for the renewable energy and fossil fuel industries. The renewable energy growth envisioned by Biden will require massive construction of transmission and power lines to deliver electricity from solar parks and wind farms on the sunny plains to the energy-hungry coasts. Whether for fossil fuels or renewable projects, the electricians who set up the lines are already in demand.
The number of job advertisements in the electric power distribution sector has increased by 35% in the past two years, according to Emsi, and the number of jobs in the construction of power lines and communication increased by 63%.
“They have a hard time finding the people they need for the jobs they do,” Sentz said.
Power line installers, in demand everywhere, make about $ 72,000 a year, more than some in the power industry, according to Emsi.
“Every county in the country needs it,” Sentz said.
An electrician who has spent 20 years working on transmission lines for coal-fired power plants will be in high demand when building infrastructure for renewable energy projects, and these tend to be union jobs, said Bob Keefe, executive director of E2, a non-partisan group. which advocates policies in the service of the economy and the environment.
“Stringing power lines is stringing power lines,” Keefe said. “We just do it better and more efficiently and connect them to the right places that need it to move some of the renewable energy we are now producing to where it needs to be.”
ARE OLD JOBS DISAPPEARING FASTER THAN NEW JOBS?
It’s hard to say. The oil, gas and chemical industries lost 107,000 jobs from March to August last year, according to a Deloitte study. It came after the pandemic crushed demand for jet fuel and gasoline as tens of millions remained at home.
Jobs in coal mines have been declining for years, from a peak of 92,000 workers in 2011 to 52,804 in 2019, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Biden wants to spend $ 16 billion to put hundreds of thousands of these people back to work by capping unclogged oil wells and mines. However, any such expenditure would require congressional approval, so the number of jobs that could be created remains uncertain.
Offshore wind projects in the United States generated approximately 7,500 jobs in 2020. And projects developed off the American coast are expected to create 85,000 jobs over the next decade, although those jobs will not necessarily be filled in the United States, according to Rystad Energy, a consulting firm. Much construction and maintenance is handled outside of the United States, despite the project sites off the United States coast.
At the same time, the demand for solar sales representatives increased by 70%, based on the number of job openings, and by 56% for solar installers from 2019 to 2020, according to Burning Glass. However, it is not clear whether the number of workers employed in such jobs has increased or decreased because the pandemic has delayed many solar installation projects.
No one disputes, however, that it will take time for the majority of workers in the fossil fuel industries to find work in renewable energy.
“It will be up to companies to help their existing workers adapt,” Sigelman said.