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Alternative Energy Creates Jobs in the US

Updated on November 15, 2017
cprice75 profile image

Cprice75 is a graduate student studying history, including labor history.

Creative Commons license CCO, via trout3212001, at pixabay.com
Creative Commons license CCO, via trout3212001, at pixabay.com | Source

New technologies are frequently beneficial to a nation's economy. From automobiles to airplanes to computers, the United States has seen many benefits as the nation has progressed from its agrarian roots to a modern industrial state. Cars and planes require massive amounts of energy to operate, and the Industrial Revolution provided the knowledge that was necessary to power these new machines in the twentieth century. One of the negative side effects of the Industrial Revolution was the pollution that it began to spew into the waterways and the atmosphere. Environmental degradation was not new when the Industrial Revolution began, but the process definitely accelerated. Renewable energy, while not necessarily a new concept, can provide many jobs and economic growth going forward.

Oil Jobs In The US

There is no doubt that traditional oil and gas jobs make up a nice portion of the overall US economy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were around 180,000 jobs in this sector of the economy as of September 2017. This number was down by more than 20,000 since just 2014, which was more than a 10 percent drop in a mere three years.

Much Of The Oil The US Uses Comes From Problematic Areas

The nation with the largest proven oil reserves is Saudi Arabia. Other nations in the Middle East rank highly in this area as well. Russia and Venezuela are also major oil producers. These nations all have things in common other than their massive reserves of oil. They are either in extremely volatile areas of the world, or in the case of Russia, they do not necessarily get along well with the United States. As the US imports much of its oil, this situation is not ideal.

Domestic oil production has definitely gone up in recent years. While horizontal fracturing, more commonly known as fracking, is not a terribly new technology, high oil prices through much of the 2000s made it a cost-effective method for getting oil out of the ground. This process allowed the US to become much more competitive in the oil and natural gas industries. However, one major problem with fossil fuels, in addition to the environmental concerns mentioned above, is the fact that it is a finite resource. These are major reasons why renewable energy is an important field of technology.

Forms Of Renewable Energy

Just as its name would indicate, renewable energy comes from sources that are not necessarily finite. Using water for energy is a very old concept. The US embarked upon major public works projects that brought hydroelectric power to the masses during the New Deal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Additionally, wind can produce massive amounts of energy. Before rural electrification projects became common, many farmers used windmills to power their homes. The sun will also continue to provide solar energy for as long as it continues to give off its light.

Growth Of Solar Energy Jobs

Whereas oil and gas jobs have declined over the past few years, renewable energy jobs should grow into the future as more and more industries move away from fossil fuels. When looking at the field of solar energy, the number of jobs grew more than 25 percent between 2015 and 2016. There were more than 260,000 people employed in this field in 2016, according to a recent February 7, 2017 article from Fortune. This is substantially more than those who worked in the traditional oil and gas fields. Furthermore, the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the number of solar voltaic installers should grow by 105 percent in the ten years between 2016 and 2026. The 2017 Energy and Employment Report from the US Department of Energy noted that there were more people employed in the solar energy field than those employed in the coal, oil, and natural gas industries combined.

Growth Of Wind Energy Jobs

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fastest growing job in the US is that of wind turbine technician. Furthermore, the number of people employed in this field should grow by 95 percent in the next ten years, according to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook mentioned above. This job pays an average of $51,000 per year. Furthermore, in 2016, the number of Americans employed in the wind energy field passed 100,000 for the first time in history.

Economic Impact Of Alternative Energy Jobs

More and more businesses are concerned with sustainability. A Business Insider article from January 26, 2017 noted that 46 percent of large firms have hired people to help them address sustainability issues in the previous two years alone. This is a massive employment opportunity, to say the least. Overall, the renewable energy industry employs around 4 million people. This is well above the 3.4 million that worked in this field as recently as 2011. An example of the economic impact that renewable energy provides to the broader economy of the United States is the fact that this industry is growing at a rate that's 12 times that of the growth rate of the economy as a whole. Furthermore, the total number of people employed in renewable energy is well above the number of people employed in the fossil fuel industries.

Many of the jobs that are available in the renewable energy field pay quite well, and many of these projects go to small companies. Additionally, there are many side industries that benefit from the growth of the renewable field. The manufacturing and maintenance of solar panels and wind turbines contribute to the job growth in these industries.

Educational Options

Many two- and four-year colleges are adding programs in alternative energy so that students can learn the ins and outs of this broad field. As noted above, jobs in renewable energy are expected to grow extensively in the next ten years, and students who focus on obtaining the skills that are necessary for these jobs will be better able to meet the needs of employers than those who do not have such knowledge. The opening of these programs is a proactive step that colleges and universities are taking to provide the workers that the growing industries of tomorrow will need.

As climate change and pollution become more of a concern, it is likely that jobs in the alternative energy fields will only continue to grow in the near term as companies and individuals shift from fossil fuels to more sustainable options.

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    • cprice75 profile image
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      cprice75 4 weeks ago from USA

      These types of jobs and energy sources are the way of the future. It's getting cheaper to produce, so it makes more sense as time goes on.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 4 weeks ago from Brazil

      I find it hard to believe that people can be against renewable energy sources but of course, there are many.

      Where I live wind farms are a common sight, in fact, I have some near my home.

      I find it interesting about the pay for technicians in this industry. I am also pleased to see that the colleges are adding these courses to their curriculum.