Guest post by David Middleton
The number of U.S. jobs in solar energy overtook those in oil and natural gas extraction for the first time last year, helping drive a global surge in employment in the clean-energy business as fossil-fuel companies faltered.
Employment in the U.S. solar business grew 12 times faster than overall job creation, the International Renewable Energy Agency said in a report on Wednesday. About 8.1 million people worldwide had jobs in the clean energy in 2015, up from 7.7 million in 2014, according to the industry group based in Abu Dhabi.
Why is this newsworthy? Energy production is not a jobs program. The fact it takes more people to provide for 1% of our energy consumption than it takes to provide for 52% (67% if imported oil is included) is not a positive aspect of solar power.
The following charts are calibrated in “millions of tonnes of oil equivalent” (MTOE). The data are from the Bloomberg article, BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2015 and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What’s that? You can’t see the Oil & Gas bar on the chart? I can fix that.
I am using 2014 because that is the most recent year for which I had comprehensive data. It was also the peak employment year for the oil and gas industry (~200,000 employees vs ~165,000 solar employees). Since 2014, U.S. oil & gas employment has declined; however our total oil & gas production continued to climb…
The fact that the United States leads the world in oil & gas production is a bit more significant than the fact that the typical solar industry worker is less than 1% as productive as the typical oil & gas employee.