Todd 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.