What NPR Misses About Energy Jobs In America

Guest post by David Middleton


In 2008, candidate Barack Obama ran an ad with this opening line: “The hands that built this nation can build a new economy. The hands that harvest crops can also harvest the wind.”

And then it showed men working on roofs: “The hands that install roofs can also install solar panels.”

The ad was directed at a group Obama was acutely aware he had to win over — white, working-class men. A quarter of those same men deserted Democrats in 2016, according to a New York Times analysis, and voted either for Donald Trump or a third-party candidate.

On Tuesday, President Trump is trying to start making good on his promises to many of those same white men — coal workers. The Trump administration is doing an about-face on President Obama’s climate and environmental policies. The president signed an executive order with a goal of taking restraints off businesses and boosting the coal industry.

“He made a pledge to the coal industry, and he’s going to do whatever he can to help those workers,” a senior administrative official said Monday ahead of the executive order’s signing.

Speaking at the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters, Trump said a “new era” in energy production is starting Tuesday.

Surrounded by about a dozen coal miners, he said, per NPR’s Jennifer Ludden, “You’re going back to work.” He pledged to “end the war on coal and have clean coal, really clean coal.”

But there are problems with both Trump’s nostalgic Make America Great Again coal promises and Obama’s radical vision for a reshaped economy.

Trump’s ignores the reality of a changing energy industry. Solar jobs, for example, have taken off over the past decade. The Obama administration tried hard to incentivize clean energy (so much so that it got caught up in the Solyndra scandal. The head of Solyndra was an Obama campaign bundler. Obama visited the company and touted it. His administration incentivized companies like it. In 2011, the government helped Solyndra refinance, but just months later, the company failed).

But solar now accounts for some 260,000 energy jobs in the country, the majority of which are held by installers. That’s almost four times the number of coal industry jobs, about 70,000, as of May 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And that industry has been on a steady and steep decline over the past 30 years…


In the energy industry, solar is outpaced only by the oil industry, according to a major report by the Solar Foundation. And solar’s gotten cheaper to produce (despite Trump’s proclamations during the campaign that he loves solar except that it’s expensive).



Why do journalists, environmentalists and liberals (redundant, I know) confuse energy production with jobs programs?  The only way an economy can successfully grow in a healthy, robust manner is through increasing productivity.

What is ‘Productivity’

Productivity is an economic measure of output per unit of input. Inputs include labor and capital, while output is typically measured in revenues and other gross domestic product (GDP) components such as business inventories. Productivity measures may be examined collectively (across the whole economy) or viewed industry by industry to examine trends in labor growth, wage levels and technological improvement.

BREAKING DOWN ‘Productivity’

Productivity gains are vital to the economy, as they mean that more is being accomplished with less. Capital and labor are both scarce resources, so maximizing their impact is a core concern of modern business. Productivity enhancements come from technology advances, such as computers and the internet, supply chain and logistics improvements, and increased skill levels within the workforce.

Read more: Productivity Definition | Investopediahttp://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/productivity.asp#ixzz4cooRyEry

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Putting coal miners back to work will be a byproduct of increased coal production, not the purpose of it.

Here is a plot of U.S. energy production from oil & gas, coal, wind and solar power in million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe).


Source: BP 2016 Statistical Review of World Energy

I used the production numbers for oil & gas and coal rather than the consumption numbers because U.S. fossil fuel employees don’t produce imported fossil fuels.  I used the consumption numbers for wind and solar because those were the only numbers (we don’t import or store wind and solar power).  I added oil and gas together because its the same group of employees who produce the oil and the gas.

Here is a plot of Mtoe per thousand employees:


Sources: BP 2016 Statistical Review of World Energy, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (via FRED), The Solar Foundation and American Wind Energy Association.

Which energy employees are the most productive?

Even if I added in midstream and downstream fossil fuel-related employees, they would still be an order of magnitude more productive than wind energy employees and two orders of magnitude more productive than solar energy employees.


American Wind Energy Association

BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2016

The Solar Foundation

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, All Employees: Mining and Logging: Coal Mining [CEU1021210001], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CEU1021210001, March 29, 2017.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, All Employees: Mining and Logging: Oil and Gas Extraction [CES1021100001], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CES1021100001, March 29, 2017.

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Brings meaning to the phrase, “vanishingly small”. Lawrence Livermore Labs have some illustrative energy flow charts that clarify just how far the intermittents will have to progress to supply our grid requirements.


comment image

That chart sure is pretty. What the heck does it say?


Bob Greene, the chart is pretty self-explanatory. Perhaps something that’s not quite obvious is the “rejected energy”, but this simply accounts for the inefficiency of the various processes — steam-turbine cycles are ~30-40% efficient, IC engines are 15-20% efficient, etc.


Bob Greene,


Glossary of terms. E.g. “Also note the Rejected Energy (in gray). It is 58% of all energy (more than half). This is partly due to the second law of thermodynamics and partly due to use of inefficient equipment.”

I was shocked by how much “Rejected Energy” there is. But I guess it makes sense. There is so much wasted heat in every step of energy production and use.

george e. smith

If renewables were ever going to be cost competitive, they would get rid of more jobs, rather than create more jobs.

Manual labor is the most expensive way of doing almost anything.

This is not to denigrate manual labor or the people who work at it; it is necessary. You can’t just mechanize everything.

You can’t sell a nice caterpillar bulldozer to the Mexican Government; but you could sell them 10,000 shovels. They need to keep people working. So it takes a bit longer to get roads built or fixed, but it will get done and people will get to feed their families.

Is Solar PV the ONLY energy source that IS NOT based on utilizing the waste heat from “burning” something or some other thermal process subject to Carnot efficiency considerations ??



“Is Solar PV the ONLY energy source that IS NOT based on utilizing the waste heat from “burning” something or some other thermal process subject to Carnot efficiency considerations”

No. Hydro power isn’t and it is nearly 100% efficient. Wind power on the other hand can’t get over 53 % even theoretically.

Walter Sobchak

There are efficiency limits on solar too. The second law of thermodynamics is a law in this physical universe. Of course, the real solar problem is the earth, which continues to turn and cause night to follow day.

george e. smith

Sorry TTY,

Hydroelectric is solar thermal energy.

Solar EM radiant energy (photons) gets absorbed in the oceans as solar spectrum energy, or gets absorbed in the atmosphere, and converted to waste heat in both cases, leading to evaporation of water into the atmosphere, which ultimately is precipitated in some form, eventually arriving in some water reservoir, with some gravitational potential energy, that ultimately turns a turbine powered alternator.

So even hydro, starts out as solar electro-magnetic radiation energy that gets ” wasted ” by conversion to heat.
I say wasted, even though the conversion from EM radiant energy of photons to heat is very efficient. But from then on, everything is at the mercy of the Carnot efficiency.


PS. Yes Hydro is quite effective in locations where it is practical, and hopefully is not too destructive of environmental interests (if properly planned and executed. Everything we have comes out of the ground, so it is environmentally disturbing, and hence destructive to watermelons.

old construction worker

You can’t sell a nice caterpillar bulldozer…. No but you could sell Mexico 10,000 bulldozer and be more productive and create new jobs keeping the equipment running.


No, the Mexico stuff is wrong. Better to have one person as productive as they can be, then find a way for the next person to be as productive as they can be then to make 10,000 people very unproductive. The first way generates a virtuous circle, the second generates next to nothing and traps the 10,000 in very low paying employment.

Argh. Wages are prices, too, and subject to supply and demand. For pure manual labor, there are some 7 billion (upper bound) potential suppliers and far fewer customers.

There are times when it would be good for people to work both sides of this aisle. People who’ve never offered a job to another seem to never get it. As a buyer, why would I pay more for something that i’ll be worth to me, on the margin, for the need met? As a seller, why would I sell for less than I should get for the value that I want, on the margin, for the need met? This is why minimum wages, particularly wages above those that would clear the market naturally, are evil. If I agree to work for a dollar, a dollar is what I’ve earned and I have no right to demand a penny more. I can, of course, renegotiate the contract and if I can sell the buyer (the employer) that I’m worth far more to him, even with the new rates, said employer would be a fool to not take that deal. We both win when this happens.

I’ve never seen a minimum wage increase that ever helped me when everything’s been said and done. Conversely, I’ve seen plenty that harmed me, directly or indirectly. Want a raise? Go earn it and earn it every day! Workers, never forget that it is your employer’s customers that are paying your wages. Have you earned them today? /rhetorical


While not contradicting your main point the diagram does give a word of caution about making productivity comparisons of energy sources at the point of production (that I assume the mT/k employees does). Different fuels have different distribution and conversion paths before they get used. For example if we consider just the energy losses (put aside employment effects), the distillate to rubber on the road losses through an ICE are around 75%, the electricity to the road losses through an EV are around 25%.

The moral is that energy isn’t a commodity that allows simple tons of oil equiv comparisons even at this high level. Add to that the need to consider capital productivity as well and the picture becomes more complex still.


Since so called renewables are and will always be a tiny fraction of energy production, you need to include the inefficiencies in burning fossil fuels to create the electricity, plus the energy needed to get the fuels to the power plant.

Walter Sobchak

In the rejected energy bucket, do not forget that wind can and does get rtejected because of oversupply at times.

So, the real intent of the graph is to visually overstate renewables while understating fossil fuels and nuclear.

Typical complex color graph, visually meaningless; one require the actual table of inputs, reductions, efficiencies and totals. Not a ham handed lipstick job.

There is also an amazing lack of detail on the “rejected energy” side.
Opening the ability to cite fossil fuel inefficiencies while ignoring immense percentages of renewable rejected energies.
Especially since the end users suffer the same levels of electrical inefficiency; well after renewables suffer DC voltage transmission decline before undergoing DC to AC phase changes power losses.


“Intermittents”. Now there’s a truism.


They’re terrible job creation schemes too. Here in Australia, the subsidies for renewables alone amount to $260,000 per employee.

And if you subtract out the subsidies, the economic efficiency is even smaller.

Closer to zero


It’s all a reflection of energy density. You just can’t get away from it. Renewables are a great “make work” project, but so is digging a hole and filling it back up.


Instead of subsidizing wind and solar the government could subsidize “installers” to hand plow(with a spade) farmer’s fields instead of using fossil fueled tractors. Makes about as much sense, although the ‘hand plowing’ is probably more productive in terms of energy produced by the resulting crops. Productivity might be a bit low,. BOE calculation, it would take roughly 26,000,000 million workers, about $480 billion dollars a year.


Under the noise floor. 😉

old construction worker

“…government could subsidize “installers” to hand plow(with a spade) farmer’s…” That might solve the world’s overweight problem.


Much less than zero.

coal is for the steel industry.

John W. Garrett

Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.
× 1,000,000

As one of those poor, benighted NPR listeners, it’s all I can do to keep from throwing the radio out the window whenever the topic turns to energy or climate.

It enrages me that NPR (and PBS and CNN and the WaPo and the NYT and NBC and CBS) continuously misinforms the public.

Malicious intent and economic illiteracy are the only possible explanations.

“Malicious intent and economic illiteracy are the only possible explanations.”

I think it’s less a case of malevolence and more a case of ignorantly following political doctrine. Political bias can make even the smartest people say and do really stupid things.

Mark from the Midwest

Being ignorant and malevolent can be pretty close cousins. The most tolerant people I know also are the ones that have sufficient natural curiosity to understand that nothing is settled.


NPR = National Propaganda Radio.


If NPR staff were smart, and not intoxicated on progressive Kool-Aid, they would make some effort to balance their narrative, since the Trump administration has a magnifying glass trained on CPB and especially NPR. Impossible, of course, since they are all died-in-the-wool progressives or they wouldn’t be working for NPR in the first place.

Steve Case

Well intentioned but ill informed people being led by the ill intentioned and well informed.


I like to listen to NPR so I know more about the way the enemy thinks. Sun Tzu said that if you know your enemy and know yourself you will never be defeated in battle… 😉

Agreed, I like to tune them in during the news breaks for normal talk radio. I almost consider NPR to be a humor channel because of the cluelessness. The science show on Friday is great, though.


NPR over the last 5 years has become one of the standardbearers of the Deep Blue Echochamber. Reality is irrelevant because it’s all about The Narrative. Any time they quote other sources, it’s invariably the NYT, the WashPo, or The Guardian. When all you do is quote each other, pretty soon the group-think becomes impenetrable. And why let facts get in the way of the story your donors want to hear? They’ll never hear one darn thing on there that rocks their selection bias in the slightest.

Bob boder

“But solar now accounts for some 260,000 energy jobs in the country, the majority of which are held by installers. That’s almost four times the number of coal industry jobs, about 70,000, as of May 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And that industry has been on a steady and steep decline over the past 30 years…”

Milton Freedman after seeing work done on a roadway in India, he asked “Why is there no heavy equipment, why is everyone using shovels?” The answer “because this is a works project”. his response “Then why not give them spoons instead”. This is the failing of the socialist model wealth is created when less people do more work. They see jobs as a stagnant thing, if their view was right the world would have collapsed when the agrarian society converted to mechanisation eliminating 90% of the worlds jobs. What actually happened was the world became infinitely richer and wealth spread throughout society.



Bob boder:

NO, that is NOT “the socialist model”. It is stupidity that has NOTHING to do with socialism.

Deliberate inefficiency is often a result of corruption such as crony capitalism, not socialism.



Crony capitalism is socialism.


Deliberate inefficicency is the result of crony capitalism? You would be referring to the subsidies and handouts to wind and solar, right?

What is the “socialist model”?



You ask me

What is the “socialist model”?

It would be off-topic for me to answer your question in this thread but I answered it and debated that answer with others on WUWT here.

If you read the link then you will see that the daft response of the MarkW bot is as wrong as its posts usually are.



The socialist model is to bring everyone down to the same level, except for the ruling elite. It basically accelerates the divide between the rich and the poor, but the poor don’t realize this as almost everyone is poor.

We see this at work in the education system as well, where they teach to the least common denominator instead of letting students advance at their own rate.



I apologise that I failed to address a clarification that you requested of me. My omission was not evasion: it was a result of my annoyance at the ‘noises off’ from the MarkW bot. I write to correct the matter.

Yes, “subsidies and handouts to wind and solar” are examples of deliberate inefficiency provided by crony capitalism.




Your comment is as wrong as the falsehood from the MarkW bot.



Yes richard, we understand. Socialism is perfect, therefore anything that isn’t perfect is capitalism.
When the government decides how investment decisions are made, or even tries to strongly influence them. That is socialism, not capitalism.



I see your writers have still not yet accepted my repeated advice to amend you to make your posts less predicable.

Socialism is not perfect: nothing is.
And every other statement in your post is plain wrong, too.
So you have provided yet another of your typical posts.



MarkW March 30, 2017 at 8:21 am

Crony capitalism is socialism.

My favorite version is Corporate Welfare Bums.



Congratulations! You have managed to make a post more stupid than the MarkW bot. Not many people could do that.




One constant with socialists, they feel the need to de-humanize those who disagree with them. Makes killing them when you get the chance so much easier.

BTW, I notice that when defending socialism, richard never gets above the claim that anyone who disagrees with him is an idiot.


MarkW bot:

I don’t “dehumanise” anybody.
I point out that you – only you – fail the Turing Test: no human being could survive outside of in-care in incarceration if he were as predictable and irrational as you.

Your posts are far-right propaganda, falsehoods, and flaming of any who refute your falsehoods.

Your flamings of me on WUWT include an assertion that I disagree with charitable giving and support for a suggestion from ws that I have sexual relations with my son. Those outrageous falsehoods are inexcusable. Clearly, your behaviour does not rise to that of a human being.



In a small, homogeneous society, socialism can work temporarily, but as Margaret Thatcher is credited to have said, ‘The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.’ The consequences of the self destructive ‘nudging’ towards socialism by Obama and the Democratic party is why Trump won and the Republicans now control Congress.

The idealized, theoretical socialism of Star Trek may seem like a panacea, but it’s a fools errand to think that it’s achievable and wherever it’s been tried, corruption and collapse is sure to follow. Most socialist and/or Marxist experiments fail after a decade or so and non has lasted more than about 75 years before collapse. The N Korea socialist experiment has lasted the longest, but not because it’s successful.

Look at the list of socialist countries and they have the most corruption and the largest divide between the rich and the poor. For example, Bangladesh, India, N Korea, Nepal, Sri Lanka. In these cases and many more, the poor are so poor that a homeless person in SF has a better life and of course, the ruling elite, who will also be the primary beneficiaries of climate ‘reparations’, are as rich as can be.

How do you think India’s caste system, which institutionalizes the divide between the rich and the poor, survives in a declared socialist system when the preamble to their constitution states:

“We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizens:”

It’s the difference between theory and practice.


Sorry richard, but screaming you’re wrong and an idiot, is not refuting.
Secondly, where have I flamed you? Is your ego so delicate that merely having your errors and mis-statements pointed out hurts your feelings?

Declaring that somebody else is not human but a poorly made bot isn’t dehumanizing?
Interesting world that you live in. Do they permit tourist visas?


richard, I know that your hatred of those who don’t worship socialism causes you to see things that aren’t there. I have never, not even once made the claim that you have inappropriate relationships between you and your son or anyone else for that matter. I confess to getting the two of you confused from time to time and I’m trying to do better on that score.

You really should calm down.


I have stated that in general, socialists only believe in charitable giving when it’s other people’s money that is being given away, and that is easily supported by surveys of charitable giving by socialists and others.
I have never, not even once made a claim about your personal charitable habits.

Mickey Reno

Socialism and command economies go hand in hand, Richard. Name a socialist economy that has actually worked. Even on small scales, like Israeli Kibbutzim, they have no staying power. On grand, national scales, they have led to horrific, dehumanizing failures like the Cultural Revolution in China and the Holodomor and Gulag in the former Soviet Union, from a rapid devolution of society in Venezuela to the pathetic and chronic poverty and bad dental health in Cuba, to say nothing of the Cambodian Killing Fields or nightmarish prospects of a baby born in today’s North Korea. Command economies always fail BECAUSE they substitute good intentions or good feelings-some one-Party-power-broker-bureaucrat’s idea of what is right or what is needed for the price mechanisms of free supply and demand, they always end up with the bad things you think are not intrinsic parts of socialism. If you like equality of misery led by a small class of privileged elites, Capitalism falls WAY BEHIND modern Communists and Socialists.

You seem way too smart to still be hanging on to demonstrable failure. Give it up and embrace free markets. Avoid proven failure. Trust the invisible hand. You’ll be happy you did.



My reply to you appeared in the wrong place. This is a copy that hopefully is in the right place.

Yes, as you report, Margaret Thatcher did say

‘The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.’

She said it as a deflection from the fact that she was buying votes with other people’s money by selling council houses at far below market value. This caused several problems including creation of the lack of affordable housing which is still a problem in the UK. When the resource ran out her party dumped her from office.

The deflection tactic used by Thatcher is a standard right-wing ploy but is not unique to them. For example, people who have been altering and losing climate data are now saying data needs to be protected from the Trump administration. The Thatcher example you cite provides a lesson in how to respond.

Effective response is not to discuss the false accusation: as Thatcher demonstrated, that response deflects discussion away from the reality which the falsehood is intended to mask. Effective response is to Ignore the false accusation and to proclaim the reality which the falsehood is intended to mask.

And please don’t bother to spout more untrue far-right soundbites: the MarkW bot is programmed to do that.



Mickey Reno:

This will the last of my contributions to this off-topic sub-thread because I see no reason for anybody to be subjected to more ravings and falsehoods from the MarkW bot.

You ask me

Name a socialist economy that has actually worked.

Only one? OK, Sweden.

And your equating socialism with communism is extremely offensive, If you honestly don’t know what socialism is then read the link I provided.


Bob boder


“NO, that is NOT “the socialist model”. It is stupidity that has NOTHING to do with socialism.

Deliberate inefficiency is often a result of corruption such as crony capitalism, not socialism.”

I disagree with you but am not going to argue with you I have too much respect for you in general. My only suggestion to you is that you can find like minded people and create a socialist within the confines of any free market, individualist society, however you can’t have a free market system inside a socialist system, so i ask you enjoy your system with people of like minds and leave me the freedom to live my life my way..


The socialist model is to bring everyone down to the same level, except for the ruling elite

Well, that’s Progressing nicely already with the hollowing-out of the middle class due to automation and offshoring. Equal misery for all! Enjoy (and hide) the decline!


interesting- a one-man cringe compilation!
broken up bits of marxist dogma form a constellation of absurdities whirling around the schwartzchild radius of self contradiction- a failed grasp of the concept ‘ownership’.
a veritable tempest in a colostomy bag.

Repaet it went to the wrong (up) thread
@ Richard courtney, you said Sweden is a successful socialistic country ? Have you followed the news lately? Their economy is in shambles and I won’t even start on their failed migrant problem.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Bishkek

Bob Boder

“Deliberate inefficiency is often a result of corruption such as crony capitalism, not socialism.””

The Mennonites around Waterloo would disagree with such a blanket statement. They choose a level of technology that ensures 100% of the community has work to do and enjoys a life from it. They use all kinds of modern technology when it is necessary to create additional employment, and they choose to lead a simple life in their own homes. A lot of them use wood for heating and kerosene for illumination. I use on of their businesses that does laser cutting the barn. Why not? They work had, do a good job and are reliable. For the most part they prefer not to buy cars. They do not participate in the provincial health care payment plan, even though it is free, creating their own community system of payment.

Shutting down the steel industry in the US was one of the dumbest things even allowed, for strategic reasons. There are several things they could have done. 100% employment is not a ‘socialist’ act or a communist plot, it is a good idea. Job sharing is a different approach.

Roadside gravel crushing is a great employer. It doesn’t mean they have to be unproductive. They are productive at a certain cost. There is nothing dishonourable about working with your hands, even if it is tp make paper or break stones. I suspect the coal miners would agree.

Bob boder


“Bob Boder

“Deliberate inefficiency is often a result of corruption such as crony capitalism, not socialism.””

Interesting but i wasn’t the one to make this comment.

I think however you would find that the Mennonites (living in PA USA i have a lot of contact with various sects) are very efficient in everything they do and would be the first to ostracize anyone who wasn’t off like mind. As i stated to Richard i have no problem with like minded people banding together and forming a socialist society, This can be done with in any free market individualistic society, I am all for freedom of choice and association. That being said the world today is full of socialist that believe it is their duty to force socialistic ideas on everyone, It is a religion every bit as powerful as any other and i for one do not believe and have no desire to live under that system.

Bob boder


“Roadside gravel crushing is a great employer. It doesn’t mean they have to be unproductive. They are productive at a certain cost. There is nothing dishonourable about working with your hands, even if it is tp make paper or break stones. I suspect the coal miners would agree.”

Absolutely, if it can exist and survive within the confines of a free market without taking money from one group of people to subsidise another who am I to say how their work should be done, the market determines that.

PS i work with my hands every day so if you think I believe it is dishonorable to do so you know me not. These are the people that produce the wealth that the politicians, lawyers and academics live off of, I am their biggest advocate and believer. What does your statement have to do with Socialism? Nothing because Socialism has nothing to do with working people. Socialism doesn’t create jobs or wealth it redistributes it and usually the redistribution is from the working class to everyone else.


Typical, richard lies about what I have posted, then runs and hides.
I guess he’s not man enough to apologize, despite the fact that he (or perhaps his son, I’m always getting them confused) has frequently demanded that others apologize to him.

M Courtney

MarkW, for help I suggest you look up the letters “M” and “richards”.

There are other differences too.
For example, I expressed to ws that I thought his allegation of paedophilia was a bit far as personal attacks go. But I didn’t demand an apology either from him or from his cheerleaders.
I did accept the apology from him when on reflection he volunteered it, as I certainly and graciously would from his cheerleaders.
But I wouldn’t demand that which only honour can offer.


Did I say that you had demanded an apology from ws?
Regardless, are you saying that your father has no honor?


Richardscourtney: Sorry I asked. Didn’t know it was such a point of contention on here. I will read your link. Thanks and I’ll stay off the subject henceforth.


I am amused to see that they are obviously still working on Grelber. I wonder if it can pass the Turing Test?

M Courtney

No, my father was not one of the cheerleaders of ws.
If you can’t read names before you post perhaps you should try to read what you yourself write?


RichardSCourtney… “Sweden”

As a half-Finn with many family and friends in Scandinavia, I had to laugh. 🙂

Here’s a couple of good articles that factually debunk the Sweden myth.

General: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/425800/bernie-sanders-socialist-success-sweden
A bit more detail: http://reason.com/archives/2016/09/01/does-socialism-work-for-sweden-why-thats
And then there’s: Debunking Utopia: Exposing the Myth of Nordic Socialism

The story of Ikea is iconic in this context.


The opposite of the “Socialist Model” is the absence of a planned economy. In this case, let the solar and wind industry continue growing freely. I am sure there will be a market for that also – it has many good points. Leave it all to the market – apart from having some anti-monopoly legislation, let us hope that Trump will just give old-fashioned capitalism a free rein – I am sure giving industry and unhindered initiative access to the cheapest possible energy will solve all these problems.

old construction worker

“The principles of socialism are adopted from Methodist Christianity so it should not surprise that socialism adopts a care for individuals (Methodists hold to a doctrine of individual salvation). Indeed, socialism is an extreme form of individualism in that it insists society should meet the unique needs of each individual as far as is possible while expecting each individual to contribute to society. ” Richardscourtney, I have a question. Who is “it” in “it insists society…. unique needs”? What needs are “it” insisting be provided? Why did the “Methodist Christianity” push your government into the role of “it” therefore forcing non-Methodist to follow and finance Methodist believe system?


Socialism is always inefficient since it replaces price and market signals with central planning, It replaces market variation with one size fits all. And since people always resist that, it always results in coercion.

So bad in every way possible.


Courtney’s, I do read names, however when it comes to which Courtney said what several days ago, sometimes the memory fails.


The only anti-monopoly laws that are needed is one to prevent the government from creating them.

Wealth cannot be distributed nor redistributed. Stuff, which requires wealth that brings stuff into being, can be distributed or redistributed. This is one of the fallacies of socialism (conflating wealth with the products of wealth) and why it was demonstrated 100 years ago to be a 100% failure, for socialist systems cannot do economic calculation.

Wealth resides between the ears of producers, seeing a need and making it possible for the need to be satisfied, at a price both sides find agreeable. Money is not necessary for this. Liberty is, though, and that’s another reason why socialism fails. No willing traders, no profits. Traders are people, so profits can never come before people. Profits come from meeting the needs of people, through voluntary exchange.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Bishkek

“But solar now accounts for some 260,000 energy jobs in the country, the majority of which are held by installers. That’s almost four times the number of coal industry jobs, about 70,000, as of May 2015”

Well there is a bit more to coal than the diggers of it. That is like saying the solar industry jobs are limited to those who grow silicon bars and slice them up. If we add installers, coal stations are far more productive. If add distribution of the power generated, that gets interesting. If we look are what is needed to ‘have’ a coal-fired power system it includes a great number of people who distribute the power via wires, and who install equipment that uses it. Job-counting should share those jobs based on total power produced.

What would be a comprehensive look at the two industries, solar PV and the uses of its power, and the coal-fired power industry with its inputs and outputs? I have no preconceptions about where the numbers would lead, but if we are going to talk about ‘systems’ we should include all elements of both systems, pretending that either could replace all else.

Solar is fine for some things – wise applications abound. All we need is a way to store it – but exactly the same thing can be said for coal-fired power stations. If they were to run flat out all the time, the system efficiency would be much greater so there could be fewer of them, and the excess in off-peaks could be stored in giant batteries for peak times. Fewer stations required.

I have never seen this argument presented, but it is a valid one. Any system that has huge storage added to it can operate at a higher efficiency in terms of return on investment.

If solar PV needs backup batteries for night, why not have battery backup for coal and nuclear and hydro and run-of-river and so on? If batteries are OK, then they are good for everyone. Then we can see what the systems would look like.

At the moment PV is getting a free ride on the back of the coal stations. The plan is to have them get a free ride on the public purse investing in giant batteries. If we have enough on-demand storage, all power stations could run at 100% capacity. Fair is fair. Then we can see what things really cost and which is the most effective.

It might turn out that the best investment is a combination without favourites. As the sensitivity alarm dies away into the low sub-1 values, things may take an interesting turn.

Look at the second graph in the article – Energy Productivity: Million Tonnes of Oil Equivalent per 1,000 Employees.
The black and red lines going up to the right – coal, oil and gas – are jobs being created. Real jobs. Jobs right across the whole economy. Jobs in the coal industry do matter, but the jobs that coal creates matter more. The more people it takes to produce energy, the more expensive the energy becomes, and the less net jobs it creates.

Kalifornia Kook

Spot on, Crispin (re battery backup for coal, nuclear, etc.) Every once in a while (OK, frequently) someone says something here that is just blindingly obvious.
That said, I’m not sure any batteries are efficient/cost effective enough to make this a truly useful option. Then again, it might be useful for allowing utilities run at lower outputs, with time to ramp up if a spike occurs. Time for another study – by someone who will have to pay if they’re wrong!


The batteries needed for load leveling non-renewable power plants would be several orders of magnitude smaller than those needed to back up wind and solar. You are talking about a 5 or 10% of total output instead of 100% and only a few hours instead of a few days.
PS: In areas where hydro is available, it has often played this role.


bob boder, you are so right. According to the federal Enery Information Administration, in 2015 coal produced 33% of US electricity while solar produced 0.6%. That’s a 55 to 1 advanatage for coal. According to The Solar Foundation, in 2015, employment in the solar industry was 208,859, while in the coal industry it was 65,971. That’s another 3 to 1 advantage for coal. In other words, coal is 165 TIMES as efficient as solar for electricty generation. Even if we were to add employees to account for the transportation and burning of coal in power plants, coal would still easily enjoy at least a 100 to 1 advantage. That’s like choosing to hire 100 kids with manicure scissors to cut your grass, or hire one kid with a mower. Or 100 shovel-weilding ditchdiggers rather than one man on a backhoe. The former is medieval technology, the latter is modernity and the world owes its current level of affluence to this very difference.

To think otherwise is clearly insane.

Everywhere else, the number of jobs required is a negative (take Musk’s battery gigafactory – expected to lower costs an astounding 1/3rd. How? By using almost no employees in the manufacture of the batteries – his will be a robot gigafactory). This is an example of transforming a negative into a positive when something requires lots of workers. ESPECIALLY if they are union workers.

I suspect that subsidies also reduce his costs, but it really just redistributes the cost to taxpayers.


David Middleton:

You quote an article that says

But solar now accounts for some 260,000 energy jobs in the country, the majority of which are held by installers. That’s almost four times the number of coal industry jobs, about 70,000, as of May 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A more clear example of the Broken Window Fallacy is hard to imagine.


Tom Halla

It’s not an original comment, but greens have a real problem with math.


What exactly are the parameters that define a “solar job”, or any similar green-energy job? The NPR article states solar now accounts for some 260,000 energy jobs in the country, the majority of which are held by installers“. So the majority (i.e. over 50%) are installers, but what about the other 100,000 or so? Are they including the guys who drive the delivery trucks full of solar equipment as green energy jobs, even if the drivers deliver other non-solar equipment as part of their regular work? Are the solar installers doing standard roofing work when not installing solar panels? What about electricians and general contractors? I have a feeling that the definition is rather vague, so as to give rosier job numbers.


I strongly suspect that anyone who spends even 1% of their time on “solar” work, is considered a solar worker.


Would getting a sun tan count?


Depends on your bust size.


Several years ago I remember city bus drivers of propane powered buses being counted as “green” jobs.

Don’t forget the thousands of workers with buckets and mops cleaning the solar panels every few months. Highly skilled jobs to boot!

Tom O

How about the telemarketers and salesmen that do their best to drum up installations? The copy writers and ad people that work on the presentations? If these are all working exclusively to promote solar, I would have to assume, then, they are “solar workers” as well. IF, however, they work for coal, oil, or gas, they will be classified as telemarketers, salesmen, copy writers or ad people. Figures never lie, although liars can always figure.


At one point in time, anyone who worked for Ford would have been counted as a manufacturing worker.
So when Ford spun off it’s accounting dept into an independant company, thousands of manufacturing jobs were destroyed and thousands of service jobs were created.
It didn’t matter that the same people, sitting in the same seats, were still doing the same jobs.


Don’t forget all those paid online shills ‘messagers’, evangelists and boosters who talk up anything “sustainable” and constantly preach doom’n’gloom over anything not “renewable”.

Alan Robertson

I seems the author is approaching this article from the point of view that NPR is wrong with the facts… and might correct themselves, with a little help.

I disagree. NPR is purposefully wrong and their programming can be considered as nothing less than propaganda (and nothing more.)


Journalists are the kind of people who believe that hiring one group of people to dig holes, and another group of people to fill them back in, is a good start.
If journalists were smart, they wouldn’t have gone into journalism in the first place.


This results from the slant journalists accumulate from their own profession. In essence, it consists of disseminating BS then issuing corrections on the same. the journalistic equivalent of digging holes and filling them in.


I’m still looking for someone here to answer this:

how many new coal mines? how many on federal lands? how many new coal mining jobs? how many new coal power plants?

I still think the answer is ‘none’


In Griffs mind, anything that doesn’t happen instantly isn’t going to happen.
His belief in models is so strong that he can’t fathom the notion that assigning hard dates to an uncertain future is something that only charlatans like his client scientists do.


I take no notice of the models whatever: I concentrate on observed effects.

e.g. The historical decline in coal power plants, coal power plant construction, smaller pipeline for future coal plants, etc.


As always, Griff has a remarkably flexible definition of historical.
In this case, a trend that has lasted for 5 years is predicted to continue forever.

Mike the Morlock

Griff March 30, 2017 at 8:25 am

Okay first new mines, it will be some time before we need to open new ones. Just increase production on existing mines and reopen ones that have been closed due to the previous administration.

The big take away Griff is that the personal are still available for rehire. Another 8 years and many of the workers would have lost their edge moved on or become to old.

Mining has its own skill sets, and is generational on learning curve. Lose to many people and you don’t have enough to train the newbies.
The industry dodged the bullet.

So relax Griff its going to be okay. With exports we will probably have more people employed in the mining industry then we started with at the turn of the millennium.



I have every sympathy for coal miners: most of my family were coal miners a generation back.

But coal plants are not being built in the US, can’t compete with renewables and shale gas plants.

There may be a little variation from whatever ‘market forces’ David M’s quoted article above mentions…
…but coal power plants will still close and produce less electricity.


They can’t compete with shale gas, now. That will only last for a few decades.
You are delusional if you believe coal can’t compete with renewables.

Mike the Morlock March 30, 2017 at 8:58 am
Griff March 30, 2017 at 8:25 am

Okay first new mines, it will be some time before we need to open new ones. Just increase production on existing mines and reopen ones that have been closed due to the previous administration.

It isn’t that easy to reopen underground mines. My late father-in-law was a lifetime mine engineer, whenever there was a strike the miners allowed him and his assistants full access to the pit to carry out maintenance. They all knew that if the mine was allowed to stand the walls of the shafts etc. would start to collapse and would impact the safety and life of the pit. I very much doubt if a pit which has not been maintained for a couple of years would be viable, or would certainly require a lot of investment to do so.


We don’t need new ones—just the coal mines now in production to call back workers. Wyoming lost 8,600 jobs in the energy sector.

Can’t say on new coal plants—enviros have made those cost prohibitive. However, other countries have not, so they buy USA coal. We don’t need new ones here to increase coal use.

“Federal land accounts for 40 percent of the nation’s coal production and about a third of its reserves. It includes areas such as the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming, the most productive coal area in the country.” from The Hill yesterday


India is banning coal imports from 2020… China is only going to import coal for steel plants… Indonesia is cutting back on coal.

UK, France, Netherlands have set dates for closing coal plants. Germany is not building any more and runs mostly on local brown coal – with its last deep mined coal pit being turned into renewable energy storage I guess its a market till 2030 or so.

Nobody really expects Japans proposed coal plants to get built.

Where will the exports go?

Rest of the world is actually trying to meet Paris agreement…


Griff: Reality says markets exist even if politics says they do not.

Michael C. Roberts

Griff the Troll – I answered your previous and very similar request for information in an older post, found here:


While I can guess that my answer will not be enough to satisfy you as it is a realistic account of what may come to pass, it is an attempt to answer what has become a recent, quasi-obsession of yours.

No one can foretell the exact future of what will happen with coal mines, miners, power plants, exportation, etc. – but we can have reasonable estimates of where this might go.

I do enjoy responding to your submissions, they tend to bring out a side of me I hold close in my other, real-world persona. If this is how you get your pay, by causing responses to your inane posts – I may just be considered one of your employers!?!

D I have to supply you with benefits, and payroll taxes, if so? I surely hope not…



MCR, Thanks for the laugh, Sadly it seems that he might be the only one getting paid for posting. ( Maybe we should start a union and go on strike against grff the next time he posts?)


Griff spent months wondering why nobody answered a particular question regarding Arctic ice earlier in the year. Despite the fact that every time he asked it, there were multiple responses.
My guess is that he either never comes back to see if anyone answers, so that he can claim not to have seen the answers, or he just isn’t mentally capable of seeing anything that contradicts his religion.


Thankyou Michael, my time spent here is limited and I had not seen your interesting reply.

I mentioned new mines because I was thinking about the federal lands thing…. are people really going to open completely new mines on prev inaccessible to mining land? You investigate mineral resources yes, but put in the mines only when there’s a return to be made (shale oil was uneconomic before world oil prices increased??)

I take your point – there may be mothballed mines. I will in future add ‘How many mines will get reopened?’ if I feel the need to ask the question again.

I am trying to convince you that despite the govt change in the US coal power plants have no economic future (stranded assets). There may be some keep going or for market reasons output a little more power, but the percentage of US electricity supplied by coal will continue to decline.

Coal mining cannot thrive becoause coal power plants can’t

It is cruel to tell miners otherwise.


Griff: So you want the coal miners told they are toast? Hillary tried that. Trump is president. Coal is not going away any time soon.

I couldn’t care less as to how many jobs are created.
Simple facts are that all of obama’s climate policies are bad for consumers and the more that are revoked, the better the rest us Americans will be


Possibly true.
Here is an alternative view. Two key factors to reference.
(1) The graphs in the OP show coal is more efficient regarding oil equivalent per man hours.
(2) Natural Gas is easier to transport and ship overseas.
So, let’s say coal is used for domestic electrical consumption and natural gas is exported abroad at higher prices.
This can reduce the trade imbalance.
This can reduce EU dependence on Russian gas, a good thing?
This can revive a declining industry in declining middle America ie; coal.
This can incentivise the natural gas industry, oddly enough in the same related rust belt areas.
This can reduce the domestic energy costs, coal fired electricity in particular, boosting the economy as nothing else can.
This will allow increased free market room for green energy development for virtue signaling snowflakes without gov’t subsidies, compete in the market or die I say.
As a bonus, natural gas can also be used to augment the transportation sector as a fuel, which will alleviate the misdirected corn ethanol fiasco allowing for more food stocks that could promote food exports abroad and reduce food costs locally. A further reduction in the balance of payments.

There must be a downside here somewhere other than the usual snowflake environmental memes of ‘dirty fossil fuels bad’ and ‘peak oil’ but I fail to see it.

It all depends upon the utilization of the most efficient application of the most efficient energy sources. Everything depends upon energy.
Until this is totally accepted all debate is whistling into the wind ( I am being PC here).


Again Griff … lag time.

The fact that you haven’t picked up on this concept yet can be considered as an example of such.

It’ll come to you someday. (Like Jordan’s joke….)


It’s silly to think that coal jobs are coming back … virtually all new power plants are non-coal powered and a very large number of prior existing plants have been or shortly will be either shut down or converted to non-coal power, primarily natural gas. It’s getting cheaper to power with gas than coal, and frankly it’s a lot easier to transport natural gas via pipeline than coal via rail, so coal plants have to be located very close to the actual coal mines to make economic sense.

Politically, jobs are far more potent than carbon emissions for most voters, and certainly for the economy. Arguing that jobs don’t matter is a loser. Which is why Trump has continuously lied about “bringing back the coal jobs” – he has to or he would never have been elected, mostly due to a handful of blue collar states that historically depended upon coal jobs that are now long gone and will never return.


Another warmist who actually believes that current trends must continue indefinitely into the future.


I am no warmist. I am a realist who doesn’t try to bamboozle people with lies and rosy jobs projections created out of bullshit like Mr. Middleton just did. Facts are facts, but you Trumpists masquerading as climate skeptics are clearly out of your “alternative facts” (known in the rest of the world as “lies”).

Coal jobs have been cratering for the last 17 years (long before Obama was in office) because gas is cheaper to produce and is much more efficient in terms of chemical energy input to heat energy output, by a factor of 50% more efficient, and because the price of natural gas plummetted while the supply skyrocketed. Coal use has gone from more than 50% of our nation’s electrical energy to less than 30% in just a decade and a half, with most of the benefits of fracking coming in only the last five years. In another 10 years coal use will be down to less than 20% of American power generation, and will continue cratering after that.

Not because of renewables – but due to natural gas, economics, and such.

In the past conservatives always loved to ding liberals as “they don’t do math” – you’re just as blind to math and markets as any liberal.

Thank god I am neither a liberal nor a conservative, and neither a Democrat nor a Republican. I AM a lifelong engineer and project manager and business manager who has always “done math”.


A realist who couldn’t find reality with a map and a professional guide.
Now that’s rich.


The only issue with pipelines is that they are easier to anonymously sabotage and then blame the owners / point to incident and claim how “unsafe” they are.


Duane has surely identified the main problem with coal power plants…

but I believe renewables will also dent coal power further…

There are many states still pursuing renewable energy – Hawaii, California, Texas, New York – as a policy.

There are many energy companies switching to wind, solar and batteries.

all of that dents coal power’s ‘market’

David: is it really only environmental regulation pushing up coal plant operating costs doing the damage??


Coal is shipped by rail. The rail lines are already there and in use. So where’s the huge expense?


Sheri – it’s called “math” and economics … it costs much more to ship bulk goods by rail than by pipeline. Pipelines are also much safer.

David. It is absolutely malicious what has been happening on the West Coast. I just can not through my mind the amount of damage these people are doing to the economy and the people. From Hydro, the Forest Industry the Mining etc. The power of the econuts is out of hand. The power of the press is what gives them the upper hand, just look at what is going on in DC. There was not a word any where in the MSM about the Senate hearing yesterday FI and the opposition against the new admin is mind boggling and frankly discouraging.

Mike the Morlock

Duane March 30, 2017 at 11:51 am

“it costs much more to ship bulk goods by rail than by pipeline. Pipelines are also much safer.”

When is the last time a coal train went Ka-Boom?
Both fuels have their pluses and minuses, Having the coal trains helps keeping the freight lines in business. Think of the impact on freight costs without coal income. None of the fuel industries exist in a vacuum. Each needs a supporting infrastructure which is linked to the rest of the economy.



Duane: The lines are already there and we are already shipping that way. The cost is known. It’s part of the equation. The “math” and economics have already been calculated and deemed acceptable.

David: Agreed. As I have stated elsewhere, cut off all electricity to these “enviro” area that might have come from coal. Also, we probably should shut off all exports from coal states. Perhaps then the self-righteous enviros would realize just how untenable their position is.

David L. Fair

Coal mixed with water forms a slurry that can be pumped over a pipeline.


David L. Fair: Yes, it can. However, it’s water-intensive. The ETSI slurry pipeline never took off in Wyoming so far as I know—there were studies, etc, but in the end, a slurry line was not feasible. There may be some elsewhere, where water is in greater supply.


When it comes to shipping oil, pipelines are definitely preferred.
However when comparing between coal by train and oil by pipeline, the comparison gets more complicated.

There is a thing called tree farming. It has been around for some 60 years locally. Tree farms being ‘clear’ cut isn’t the same thing as a forest being clear cut. Forests, here, are managed, but not quite like the farms. Selective cutting happens for those and underbrush removal occurs often. It is great for the environment locally. Even the prescribed burns, for pine forests routinely burn and they burn too hot if you do not manage things well. Most of these natural fires are small (people put in fire breaks). Still if enough get started in a small enough area, they’re trouble.

Patrick MJD

“Duane March 30, 2017 at 8:28 am

…so coal plants have to be located very close to the actual coal mines to make economic sense.”

Not so for the DRAX power station in the UK, well actually it *IS* right on top of a coal reserve, but DRAX is being converted to burn wood chips shipped in from the US. Stupidity at its best.


Actually, there is a power plant in Glenrock, Wyoming that was associated with a nearby coal mine and the mine was shut down and coal railroaded in from the Powder River Basin because the coal from that area had a lower sulfer content. There are a lot of factors involved.


Yes, that is stupid.

Every UK green group opposes it.

It should stop.


Just FYI, those same wood chip exporters are seeking tax incentives to clear cut and ship the wood chips in order to feed the Green fail policy adventure. That completes the picture of a crafted policy design to benefit a very few players at the expense of everyone else. That’s hardly a do gooder template. Looking the other way by Green groups is also telling.

Steve Case

Left-wing Liberal Democrats and the Main Stream media have no sense of numbers, science and reality.

That’s why they think we can run the world’s economy on wind mills, solar panels, and squirrel cages.


Right wing wackos and Trumpkins are just as oblivious to math and numbers and economics… they allow their ideology to blind themselves to reality, facts, and science, just as do the left wing wackos.

God save us all from wacko ideologues and all forms of “true believers”.


Sure, but it’s not “right wing wackos” who are trying to shut down entire energy industries and “fundamentally transform” economics. And who are these “right wing wackos” anyway – are they marching in the streets, breaking store windows, assaulting people?

Duane – Why the strong opposition to coal on the grounds that it is uncompetitive? Why not just let it compete and fail [using private not public money]. It only fails if you are right, of course.

Rich Lambert

What many either ignore or do not understand is wealth creation. There are jobs that create wealth and those that consume wealth. The oil, gas, and mineral extraction industries create wealth whereas the solar and wind industries consume wealth.

[The oil, gas, and mineral extraction industries create wealth whereas the solar and wind industries consume wealth.]
great statement !

dan no longer in CA

There’s also a quality of job factor. Mining jobs are stable. You can go home every night to your family. With solar panel erection, the big jobs programs shift locale as each array is finished. Many solar installers are living out of motel rooms. Does that make the hotel clerk a ‘green’ job?


You forgot the other line in Obama’s speech. “The leftist hands that destroyed Europe can also destroy America.” Followed by “progressive ” cheers.

Steve Case

I was mystified why the plots for Wind and Solar were missing on the last chart: Plot: MTOE per 1,000 Employees, until I looked at the very bottom.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!


The decline of coal related jobs can be attributed to both new regulations, and completion from cheap fracked natural gas. Anyone have an idea what the ratio might be? I have doubts that lifting the regulations will bring back coal as much as hoped, because there is a pile of cheap gas available, and we just keep getting better at producing it.


Natural gas is cheaper now. But as power plants shift from coal to natural gas, demand for gas will go up and demand for coal will go down. This will cause an increase in the price of gas and a decrease in the price of coal.

Dave, your $/mmBtu chart is deceptive. If you go to the eia.gov site, the following disclaimer is provided: “The conversion shown in this chart is done for illustrative purposes only. The competition between coal and natural gas to produce electricity is more complex. It involves delivered prices and emission costs, the terms of fuel supply contracts, and the workings of fuel markets.” This means your “cost” doesn’t include delivery……..so Powder River Basin coal delivered to Transco Zone 6 NY area makes it prohibitively expensive for electrical generation in the NYC area.

David, you are incorrect to say that “Coal, as a fuel, is cheaper than natural gas” Your pricing chart does not include delivery. You don’t burn Power River Basin coal in western NY state, and even moving Appalachian coal to western NY state is costly, but you can get Marcellus shale gas without crossing state lines.

dan no longer in CA

Doug: What you say is true, but I am in favor of diversity in our power grid. What happens if the price of gas goes up? That’s not likely to happen, but if it does, it would be nice to have coal burners and nukes to fall back on.


Coal is easy to ship overseas. Natural Gas isn’t.

Roger Knights

Correct. It takes expensive conversion plants and specially built ships to transport liquified natural gas. This is why I was puzzled by this statement upthread, which no one contradicted:

getitright March 30, 2017 at 12:17 pm
Possibly true.
Here is an alternative view. Two key factors to reference.
(1) The graphs in the OP show coal is more efficient regarding oil equivalent per man hours.
(2) Natural Gas is easier to transport and ship overseas.

I recently produced a report showing that renewable electricity (mostly wind and solar) in the region od England where I live employs 7,700 people to produce the same amount of electricity that 50 workers at a CCGT would produce. A productivity ratio of over 100 to 1. The conclusion is that the renewable energy policy is destroying huge amounts of wealth.


….. coal mining is an EXPORT BUSINESS, US coal is competitive worldwide…..this has been overlooked…..the increased coal production is NOT for replacing oil or gas.


That’s correct. People don’t understand that US coal is for export, assuming we can get past the crazies on the west coast blocking it from reaching ports. (Which can be cured by cutting off all electricity that even might have come from a coal plant.)


Are there any Canadian or Mexican ports that can be used?
Mexico especially would love the extra business.

MarkW, There is just as much opposition in BC against the coal terminal expansion as there is on the US west coast, don’t even get me started the opposition against pipelines or natural gas terminals ( add in mining, forestry). The same groups like the Sierra Club, WWF etc are hard at work ! ( And then there are the “Natives”) They are spending millions.


I wonder if there are any potential ports on Mexico’s Pacific coast that aren’t being utilized now because of a lack of demand. I’ve looked at a map and I see a couple of places that are possible. I haven’t checked navigation charts to see how deep the waters are.

Roger Knights

Mexico is building a huge container ship terminal about halfway down its west coast, and upgrading its rail line from there to Texas. So it would surely have enough depth to handle coal transports. (It would need a special coal pier and processing station too, though.)


Sounds like a good investment opportunity for coal producers.

Go sit on the BC Washington border and watch how many cars of coal go from the US to the Coal terminal at Twassen/Roberts Bank and how many of those trains are Warren Buffet’s BNSF? Lots.

Search engines are your friend:

mtoe is BS. Just use E6 Btus.

Not Chicken Little

Trump doesn’t miss the point, NPR does – or rather, they mis-direct and mis-inform, on purpose. Or it could be that they live so much in a fantasy world, they cannot understand the real world of productivity and energy. The number of jobs in the solar field is not the point – as Milton Friedman once pointed out according to Stephen Moore:

“At one of our dinners, Milton recalled traveling to an Asian country in the 1960s and visiting a worksite where a new canal was being built. He was shocked to see that, instead of modern tractors and earth movers, the workers had shovels. He asked why there were so few machines. The government bureaucrat explained: “You don’t understand. This is a jobs program.” To which Milton replied: “Oh, I thought you were trying to build a canal. If it’s jobs you want, then you should give these workers spoons, not shovels.”

Solar jobs are the equivalent of digging with spoons…


It might be quite hard to work out the true figures for the wind/solar jobs.
Looking at the solar installers who did the installation on my father’s house, they are a local firm who did normal domestic and small industrial electrical installations, then got into the solar PV market when the insane feed-in tariffs meant that they could fleece the customers on the basis of a ’10% annual return on your investment’ . They did hire extra staff to meet the demand, but a poorly worded survey in the hands of a someone wanting to puff up the ‘solar jobs’ could lead to a totally bogus figure for the number of full time jobs in that business.
The irony is that the puffed-up jobs figure makes the energy productivity look far worse.

Dave, you are doing apples to oranges when you compare a person working as a solar installer, versus a coal miner. When the coal miner stops working, the amount of energy he/she is producing drops to zero. When a solar installer stops working the amount of solar energy collected stops growing, but the energy from previous installations continue to flow.

Bob boder

David Dirkes

“Dave, you are doing apples to oranges when you compare a person working as a solar installer, versus a coal miner. When the coal miner stops working, the amount of energy he/she is producing drops to zero. When a solar installer stops working the amount of solar energy collected stops growing, but the energy from previous installations continue to flow.”

Same can be said for the guy that installed my natural gas forced air heater in my house or the guys that build the power generating facilities using coal or the steel worker that uses coal to make steel or so on and so on, what’s your point? Use of labor for in-efficient purposes does not create wealth in the economic sense, at least the examples i have cited are wealth generating, Yours are just more subsidized tax funded wealth killers.

The guy that installed your natural gas forced air heater isn’t producing natural gas. The steel worker using coal isn’t producing the coal, in fact he/she could be producing the steel used in constructing wind turbines.

Just like it takes a lot of oil and coal to make a coal fired power plant. So your point is moot.


The guy that installed your PV panel isn’t producing sunlight either.


At least the coal plant will produce more energy than was used to build it before it is retired.
Too bad you can’t say the same for wind or solar.

Bob boder


The guy installing the solar panel isn’t producing anything either. He’s installing a device that uses a natural resource just like the guy installing the heater.

Bob boder

the guy on the oil rig doesn’t need to be subsidized either


First off Scientific American hasn’t been either in decades.
Regardless, there’s a lot more to solar than the cells themselves.

MarkW, please show me the data that says that solar PV never produces more energy that was required to make the cells/panels.

Bob boder


This is stupid, you believe in solar fine buy it use it just don’t force me to subsidies your belief.

Rick C PE

Perhaps someone can calculate the amount of energy a single coal miner extracts in a day to the amount of energy produced by the solar panels a single installer installs in a day over their expected life. I’m guessing coal wins biggly.

Liberals do not understand that companies are in the business of making money, not jobs. Jobs is incidental to making the money. Their whole focus (from minimum wage to health care, etc.) is what is “fair”. But companies do not have to hire (and many did not because of things like Obamacare and minimum wage increases). And if they can get away with it, they DO NOT! It is a COGS, and companies are always seeking an edge so are looking to REDUCE COGS.

It is not just about energy production. Liberals just have no conception of economics, especially job economics.


Automation in the service industry is at present more expensive than labor.
However the cost of automation is coming down and the cost of labor is going up.

The “service industry” encompasses a lot of jobs, and many have already been automated. What took a dozen employees 30 years ago, now takes less than half that. Self service Checkout. ATMs (obama’s bain), and even cooking fries (before they had to not only prepare them for frying, but watch them! now they just dump the bag in the fryer and the fryer decides when to pull them out).

So yes, for some service jobs, automation is more expensive. But not for all, and as you said, not for long.


I’ve lost track of the number of people who have whined about how companies are taking “their jobs” away.
Either by sending them overseas or because they found a way to do with out altogether.
Those jobs don’t belong to the worker, nor do they belong to the country. Those jobs exist because a company has something that it needs done and it is willing to pay somebody to do it.


That’s why so many companies are installing renewable energy and energy saving measures… they fix their electricity costs for next 20 years, irrespective of what market price of electricity is.

Bob boder


If that’s the case then why do we need to subsidize them? I know the business that I work could make the numbers work even with the subsidies.


How long does the tax credit go for?

And the companies are being sued by their stock holders for malfeasance. You got one small thing correct. No one knows what the price will be in 20 years. However, no one also knows if a company will still be around in 20 years. So a company wasting stock holders equity is liable for suits of breach of fiduciary responsibility.

As I said, liberals have no clue about anything economics. And you just proved it.


Griff: Yes, and if costs go down, the companies are stuck with the high prices. Also, wind and solar are more expensive up front because you can’t make money on a 20-year contract (although at a 3% increase per year, you might—that seems standard) unless you bid high in case of future cost increases.

there are 94 million americans out of the labor force. If the gov’t wishes, it can have full employment in renewable energy production by distributing pedal powered generators to each of the 94 million, and tie their gov’t benefits to kilowatts generated and fed into the grid.

J Mac

Make it a requirement for all able bodied socialist welfare recipients under the age of 65 to participate and call it a ‘preventative health care program’!


Add in those over 65 once they have drawn out everything they ever put into Social Security.

The break even point, for people retiring today, is 84-87 years of age. The ALE is less than that. There will not be too many who “draw out” more than they paid in.


Rooftop solar is a sub-sector entirely driven by state and federal tax credits. That’s credits and not deductions by the way so it is the electricity for rich people act with significant cost shifting to the poor and middle class on grid portions of their bills. Also, the national hype campaign solar jobs and economic significance from industry advocates was done just prior to a wave of solar layoffs and closures. Those remaining jobs are even more dependent on tax credits for survival, at least in the rooftop sub-sector. I rather doubt you will hear that fact checking anytime soon, especially from NPR. I call your attention to the failure of SunEdison, production layoffs at First Solar, plant closure by Sun Power, and distressed moves by Tesla to save SolarCity.

K. Kilty

“What NPR Misses About X”
Longest book ever written.

Ivor Ward

Creating jobs is Socialism. Creating wealth is Capitalism.

The NPR piece linked to a Vox article which said,

After all, if we want clean energy to take over the world and help us stop global warming, then we need it to be cheap. And one reason solar power remains (relatively) expensive is that it’s so labor-intensive — requiring more manpower per megawatt-hour than any other power source. The natural gas industry employs as many people as solar but provides nearly 50 times as much energy.


Installing solar panels on rooftops is honest work but it is just one step above installing shingles which is very hard work, dangerous work and in many places seasonal work.

Roger Knights

“seasonal work.” How come advocates touting high solar-job employment have been coy about that fact? (To a lesser degree, it’s probably true of wind generator installers too.)

David S

The charts showing the inefficiency of the renewables work force indicates that we are creating the equivalent of a social welfare system based on renewables jobs.It’s about as useful as paying the unemployed to manually pick up rubbish so they can maintain some self esteem by being ” employed”. In contrast to the renewables workforce at least the environment is cleaner.

CD in Wisconsin

“…..A prototype solar road in Idaho is broken again only a few weeks after it caught on fire.

Dubbed “Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways,” the project has received $3.9 million in funding and been in development for 6.5 years, but is still plagued by major problems. A Twitter user caught images of the roadway being repaired Wednesday after breaking again…….”


$3.9 million. And here I thought this solar roadway stupidity was only happening in northern France.


Leaving aside anything else David’s graphs suggest that no matter what Trump does coal miners are
going to continue to be unemployed and that more of them will lose their jobs in the future. David’s figure
one shows that coal production is down and that oil and natural gas are up. His figure two shows that coal
miners are getting more and more productive. Hence you are going to new fewer and fewer coal miners in
the future. And the same trend on increasing productivity of coal miners and reduced demand for coal is apparent global. So while coal might have a future being a coal miner doesn’t.


I think they should cover those sheared off mountain tops left after coal removal with solar panels and wind turbines…


The rooftop solar lobby is too busy force feeding solar onto rooftops with lease agreements and tax credits (not deductions) for the rich at 3x the cost of competitive solar to be bothered with mountaintops. The wind lobby would do it though and then get ratepayers to foot the bill after the fact to connect it to the grid with new transmission lines.


Replace one ugly thing with something more ugly and worthless to boot. What a bargain.


Like most modern environmentalists, Griff’s environmentalism is for show only.


David I’m given to understand that after mountaintop removal there’s only bare rock and debris filled valleys.

and no one paying to restore it.

No doubt in time nature will heal it (the coal tip across from my Grandmother’s house I remember from the 1960s is now a planted forest) but just now, why not use it?

It would provide jobs for miners who lost out when they closed mines and went for blowing the top of things…

Instead of “being given to understand”, why not do some research about the actual laws in effect today. They are crazy, to the point that some areas must be restored to better than when the mining was begun.

But then that would not be “being given to understand” (short hand for I am too lazy to research it).


Sure—and what about the mountain tops that wind turbines come in a cut down hundreds of trees and shear off an area and cover it with concrete? There is a coal mine to wind plant in Wyoming. They spent MILLIONS to put everything back like it was, right down to the sagebrush. Then they ripped and tore and put in turbines and turned the place back into an industrial area. Wasted millions. Currently, you must reclaim a coal mine, so MILLIONS are spent, only to rip and tear everything up for the industrial turbines. Now you tell me THAT is environmentally friendly. I’ll pass on the offer and actually help save the areas, not pillage them.


Let’s make it really simple.

You can employ 10,000 people running on treadmills to produce energy, or 100 digging coal to produce energy.

The first is a really bad idea, despite the fact that it “creates” 9,900 more jobs.

Jobs are a COST in any economic analysis. The fewer people you have producing the same amount of stuff, the wealthier we all get.

” “You’re going back to work.” He pledged to “end the war on coal…Trump’s ignores the reality of a changing energy industry. Solar jobs, for example, have taken off over the past decade.” ~NPR

The truth about coal is that it is an incredibly versatile resource. When we use coal for energy there are hundreds of by products that supply other needs.

The heartless environmentalists do not remember (and they make sure that no children ever find out) that the use of this rock, through a little applied science, provides chemicals and materials which replaced hundreds of other, limited raw materials.

We used coal to replace burning wood; but also the byproducts of coal allow us to replace wood slats in homes with sheet rock. We use plastic, fibers, dyes, fungicides, and many other things which come from coal. The use of coal for energy supports the massive capitol and equipment needed to go underground and take out these coal seams, and so we have these inexpensive sources for thousands of products. In short, coal is also providing jobs to those who use coal tar products, like every one in the lumber industry. (What good is untreated lumber?) But the “war on coal” involves a war on every preservative, every dye, every plastic, every fungicide, every fertilizer and every other product we get from coal. So really it is a war on coal and a war on any science used to make things from this simple rock. You have to include these other industries in the coal industry.

Zeke, I am very much aware of hydrocarbon based, aka petrochemical, dyes, fibers, and more. I am aware of coal tar, but its usage has been much more limited. I am aware of a handful of coal tar based pharmaceuticals. I am aware of 1000s of petrochemical based ones. Turning mostly carbon into hydrocarbons is, it seems to me, a waste of perfectly good coal. Sure, water shift, in-situ coal liquids and gasification exist, but given that there is at least as much available in hydrocarbon sources for this, why do it if you’ve got the hydrocarbons already?

Well no coal is the same at a molecular level. There is no “coal molecule” so with the diversity comes chemically flexible uses for it.

But since the Trump Administration is addressing the “war on coal” it is a good time to see that coal is incredibly useful for these other industries and will affect all the related manufacturers.

To answer your question:

companies that use coal for fire proofing, medicines, perfumes, food preservatives, ammonia, fertilizers, pigments, artificial silk, synthetic rubber, linoleum, insecticides, wood preservatives, disinfectants, explosives, roofing, paint thinner, etc etc are not wasting coal. The war against all of these other products is actually simply part of the war on coal. (And this war on coal is looking more like a war on applied science and chemistry to me.)

One thing I am arguing is that because we use coal for power, coal miners own and maintain the heavy equipment and capital needed to extract coal from many locations.
Very, very impressive diggers for mining. This gives a plentiful supply of coal which benefits manufacturers who need it for other products. And the sulfur from the coal plant scrubbers is used for drywall.

And for your question, “but given that there is at least as much available in hydrocarbon sources for this, why do it if you’ve got the hydrocarbons already?” I would simply answer that plainly competition between suppliers is a pillar of economic freedom, and competition is an essential part of efficient use of resources, aka microdecisions. There may be any number of reasons why one raw material is chosen over another. I was just reading about James Young, and how he transitioned to shale to obtain paraffin when he needed to, for miscellaneous reasons.

No Zeke, there is a world of difference between coal and hydrocarbons. Coal is 90+% carbon, and for good coking or anthracites, 95%+ carbon. Hydrocarbons are half or better hydrogen and half or less carbon.

cdQuarles says, “Coal is 90+% carbon, and for good coking or anthracites, 95%+ carbon. Hydrocarbons are half or better hydrogen and half or less carbon.”

I do not follow your argument. When coke is made from coal, coal tar and coal gas is a byproduct.

Coke is necessary for maintaining temps in excess of 1450 degF for making cement and for smelting ore.
Coal tar and coal gas are then used to make other products.


There are any number of compounds present in varying quantities, including nitrogen and hydrogen, which yields ammonia or nitrogen fertilizers. Coal’s value as a mineral resource is obvious. Why fight it, eh?

Another thing, Zeke, how are you going to get ammonia out of coal? Ammonia is a nitrogenous compound. Coal, again, is very much carbon with a few other things associated with it.

I’m not saying that coal isn’t valuable, just not agreeing with some of your assertions, given that coal is nearly all carbon. I didn’t mention molecules, just chemical classes. Coal is a lot less flexible as a chemical feedstock due to its very high carbon nature. What I’m saying is that it is a waste to use coal in lesser value uses than using it in high value uses.

There is no one “coal molecule.” I provided a link to some chemical structures of coal. There is plenty of O, H, S and some N, depending on the bed.

All in, I’m paying 17.5 cents per kWH.

In large part because of charges now billable directly through to the customer by Oncor here in Texas. Some of that is to pay for transmission lines bringing back what is supposed to be CHEAP wind power.

Alas, no, it just doesn’t work that way for the customer.

Thanks, Obama, and thanks to the Texas State Legislature.