“Green energy is the future!” “Green energy will create tens of thousands of new jobs!” Statements like these have become the new mantra for green energy advocates even as fossil fuel emissions have fallen dramatically thanks at least in part to the rise of natural gas. Fossil fuel emissions today are roughly 10% lower than they were a decade ago in the United States according to the EPA. Combined with the precipitous decline in oil prices, green energy generation has become less economically appealing and less environmentally necessary. This has led to increased emphasis on the employment aspects of green energy. Related: Could The World Cope With Almost Limitless Energy?
A recent panel of climate scientists concluded that by 2020 around 1 million new green energy jobs would be created if the US, European Union, and China all adhere to their climate goals. This statistic is predicated on these countries managing to switch from producing conventional fossil fuel energy to green energy sources. By 2050 around 3 million new green energy jobs would be created if all conventional fossil fuels are phased out by that point and replaced with renewable energy sources.
These figures sound great initially, but there is a catch. For those jobs to materialize, fossil fuels have to be phased out. And once those fossil fuels are phased out, a lot of existing jobs will disappear.
How many jobs will disappear as the “green revolution” picks up steam?
That question is a little hard to answer especially since the climate scientists are referencing jobs created in three different regions of the world and China and the EU do not have the level of detailed labor statistics that the US does. But in the US alone there are hundreds of thousands of jobs in the oil and gas extraction field and that industry has been a critical growth engine for the economy ever since the Great Recession. Just based on the size of the US, EU, and Chinese economies, the ~200,000 US oil extraction jobs imply more than 500,000 such jobs around the world. And that is before any of the other aspects of conventional energy usage are considered. Related: Has The Bakken Peaked?
The exact number of US jobs in the energy industry is hotly debated with industry sources citing a figure close to 10 million US jobs supported by US energy. Environmentalists dispute that figure, but even they agree that the figure is at least 2 million.
So what does all of this information mean for the US energy industry and the “Green Collar” jobs of the future? Among other things, the math indicates that the green revolution will likely destroy jobs rather than create them. Even if we use the environmentalist figures of 2 million US jobs just in the oil industry and assume that this covers all fossil fuels that would be phased out by a green revolution, that still implies at least 5 million jobs would be lost between the US, China, and EU combined in a green revolution. Related: Has The U.S. Reached “Peak Oil” At Current Price Levels?
Jobs gains of 1 to 3 million offset by job losses of at least 5 million are unlikely to result in a ground swell of popular support. And all of this assumes the 1-3 million job materialize as expected, a proposition that has not always worked out so well in the past. The loss of millions of jobs and displacement of millions of working families is not likely to sit well with the general public. Those kind of figures could well end up stirring up revolt or revolution in less stable countries around the world. Eastern Europe and Russia already have their share of internal turmoil as the situation in Ukraine shows, and these are also some of the economies most dependent on oil and gas. It is ironic, but if scientists’ predictions end up being correct, the inevitable result of the green revolution may be pools of red.
By Michael McDonald for Oilprice.com
More Top Reads From Oilprice.com:
- How Much Money Can You Really Save With A Smart Home?
- Latest EIA Predictions Should Be Taken With More Than A Pinch Of Salt
- Why It Won’t Matter If Oil Prices Rebound