The Move by the Trump Administration May Cost the U.S. Jobs
Opponents of the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord believe that the move will ultimately cost the U.S. jobs rather than saving them, as the move will likely delay growth in the booming solar industry.
There are roughly 370,000 solar company workers in the U.S. at the moment, with the majority of them working in installations, according to the Department of Energy.
Taking North Carolina as an example, the employment growth disparity between solar and traditional power sources is large. More than 9,500 solar jobs have been created in North Carolina alone, which is more than the 2,181 natural gas jobs, the 2,115 coal jobs, and the 480 oil generation of electric power jobs combined.
Some experts who are opposed to President Donald Trump’s decision to end America’s participation in the climate agreement believe that such a trend will continue for years moving forward, and that the plan to refocus on coal and other energy sources is myopic.
But there is no doubt that the coal mining industry is in trouble, especially its workers. The sector has dropped to 51,000 coal mining jobs, down from 89,400 in 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Coal added 400 jobs in May, but these are hardly enough to sustain the large number of unemployed workers looking for decent-paying middle-class jobs. (Source: Ibid.)
Furthermore, a report that came out last year from The Solar Foundation found that solar jobs in the U.S. have grown 20% annually every year since 2012. This type of growth is unlikely to be matched by a renewal in older-energy-source jobs, as the growth potential is simply not as great for a revitalized coal industry as it is for new solar options.
This is a continuation of the long debate that has taken place within the U.S. on how to get its manufacturing and middle-class lower-skill jobs. While some advocate for a renewed focus on industries that once powered this demographic—like the coal industry in the Rust Belt—others believe that the best way forward is to look towards innovation and sustainability as guiding factors.
At the moment, however, Trump appears to be more inclined to push for a healthier coal and natural gas industry versus putting more emphasis on solar.
“Solar’s rise lifted these blue-collar workers. Now they’re worried about Trump,” The Washington Post, June 5, 2017.