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Friday, September 25, 2009

Clean Energy Creates 2-3 Times as Many Jobs as Fossil Fuels

Want jobs? Pass H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act. If you have a million dollars and want to create jobs with it, investing it in energy efficiency and clean energy will give you the best return. Way best:

Job Creation Potential of $1-Million Investment in Energy Projects
(click image to enlarge)

(Source: Robert Pollin, James Heintz, and Heidi Garrett-Peltier, The Economic Benefits of Investing in Clean Energy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst: Department of Economics and Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), June 2009, p. 29)

Sink a million dollars into an oil refinery, you get 5.2 jobs. Sink that cash into a coal plant, you get 6.9 jobs. Sink it into smart grid tech or wind turbines, you more than double the jobs.

Otter Tail and other investors are already figuring out that wind and other energy alternatives are the economically sensible thing to do. So should the rest of us. Dump coal, build wind!

This job-creation point is just one of the many interesting things I learned in my sit-down with the sharp fellas at Repower South Dakota. Stay tuned for a big feature series on why ACESA is key to our green future!


  1. I bet if we went to a hamster powered electric system there would be crazy amounts of job creation too. Think of all of the necessary cleaning and feeding.

    The job creation that these people are boasting about is because the technology is immature and inefficient currently. This is not a good argument for green power.

    If anything, lots of jobs needed for a particular technology indicate that it's going to be expensive. In the US, our extreme labor costs require vast automation for any endeavor to be profitable.

    Our of curiosity, is nuclear power listed in that table elsewhere?

  2. Tony, your bustin' my chops here!

    First, no, I didn't see nukes on that chart. I'm still open to building more reactors. After all, when you really have to get somewhere (foreign ports, Alpha Centauri...), nuclear is the juice of choice. It works for the US Navy!

    I wonder: are fossil fuel jobs more automatable? Does that explain the jobs difference?

    Might we have to accept some inefficiency to get the industry going? Start building it large-scale and work on improving efficiency while we still have plenty of traditional energy sources for backup?

  3. I took a class on power systems engineering for my B.S. and modern coal plants are nearly entirely automated. Everything is computer controlled. I've visited a couple plans.

    The real killer for distributed green resources is that they are distributed. Large distributed systems require vast amounts of man-hours because of all the travel. Coal is cheap to maintain because it's centralized; easy to inspect, have replacement parts on site, no travel. I honestly doubt that large-scale deployment is going to results in decreased man-hours by much simply because the system would be inherently distributed.

    Unless the green units are maintenance free it's going to be an uphill battle to make them cost competitive.

    Also, there has been a lot of talk about making a "smart grid". First, the total transmission loss of our entire electrical system is less than 7%. Second, the only valid reason to make it smart would be to include all of the inverters and converters to include non-centralized power systems. I'm not going to go into detail, but our power grid is designed for centralized power. Randomly dumping in small amounts of power actually looks more like a load than a source unless VERY expensive equipment is added to correct the power factor. Lastly, our power system is very resilient because it's mostly a passive system. If we start adding active components (computer controlled relays...) the upkeep costs will skyrocket.


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