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Published on February 3rd, 2009 | by leslieberliant

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Wind Energy Jobs Surpass Coal Mining Jobs


kent uk offshore wind turbinesTodd Woody reported last week that the wind energy industry now employs more people than coal mining. That is 85,000 jobs in wind – a 70% increase from 2007 – to coal mining’s 81,000 jobs.

Not bad for an industry that is expected to continue to grow, even if not at the levels of the last year when wind accounted for 42% of new energy and experienced a 50% increase in capacity. Plus, workers in the wind industry don’t get trapped in mines, contract black lung, or devastate entire communities by blowing up mountains.

While the coal industry overall provides double the number of jobs as wind, it is important to note, as A. Siegel does at Get Energy Smart NOW!, that coal accounts for about 50% of our energy output and wind currently makes up 2% of our energy output. As a result, it only makes sense in terms of the environment and the economy to invest in wind while making coal-fired power plants jump through more regulatory hoops. Just do the numbers and it is clear that increasing wind energy output while decreasing coal energy output results in a net gain in jobs – clean, green jobs.

And although American companies are well behind their European competitors when it comes to wind energy development (though some companies are trying to catch up on wind through innovative technology), more U.S. wind energy still means more employment for American workers:

The U.S. wind industry is dominated by European wind developers and turbine makers – General Electric (GE) and Clipper are the only two domestic turbine manufacturers – and those companies’ fortunes rise and fall with the global economy.  As the U.S. market has boomed, European companies have been moving production close to their customers – the percentage of domestically manufactured wind turbine components rose from 30% to 50% between 2005 and 2008, according to the American Wind Energy Association. – Greenwombat

The Obama stimulus package, assuming it gets through the House and Senate negotiations unscathed, includes $54 billion for green projects that include renewable energy like wind. It also includes a 3-year extension of an important production tax credit that helped stimulate the massive growth in the wind industry during the last year. This tax credit may not be enough, however, to overcome the current economic conditions of too few investments going anywhere. That would be a true shame as the numbers don’t lie. Clean energy not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions, but creates jobs. Both are outcomes that we desperately need.

Image credit: Elsie esq. at Flickr under a Creative Commons license



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  • MICHAEL GRAHAM

    85,00 to produce 2% of electricity versus 81,000 to produce 50%
    Do the math.
    US prosperity was built on low cost energy not massive, tax payer subsidized, job programs.
    Change we can believe in?
    Humbug.

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  • Reality

    [ “MICHAEL GRAHAM –
    85,00 to produce 2% of electricity versus 81,000 to produce 50%
    Do the math.
    US prosperity was built on low cost energy not massive, tax payer subsidized, job programs.
    Change we can believe in?
    Humbug.”]

    US “Prosperity” as you so like to put it was built on poisoning people and the environment….when you factor in those costs..plus all the subsidies the utilities and coal industries have received for decades… that so called “cheap energy” is not cheap at all and comes with a high price of people’s lives, the environment and the planet not to mention endangering future generations.

    So all you MICHAEL GRAHAMs of the World…WAKE UP! its the result from centuries of this narrow mindedness that we are having to clean up the mess.

  • William Ford

    Agreed America (and our standard of living) is based on low cost energy — and yes we have done our share of polluting warer and air — we are and have been the world leader in cleaning the air and water — you can go nearly anywhare in this land and find clean water — and the cafe standards (smog devices, charcoal canisters, catalytic converters are not required in Europe) for our cars are the most stringent in the world. We are adderssing smog in our cities by makeing every car adhere to a certain standard. China and India (the two most active economies in the world) require none of this — China had to shut down industry in the Bejing area for several months to help clear the air enough for the Olympics.Those who ignore pollution do so at their peril, Americans have taken responsibility for their actions — if you want to live in a tent that’s up to you.

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