We recently saw a quote on Facebook that implied there is a decision: the economy OR the environment.
We know many people do think this, including many who call for cuts in renewable/efficient energy subsidies AND weakening standards under the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.
They think this approach is good for the economy. We think the opposite: economic growth and a cleaner environment go hand in hand. In the future, this will be even more true.
That's why we read up on two key economic indicators: job growth and investment returns.
Our research convinced us that while there's still a lot of work to do, a choice between the environment or the economy is not necessary at all.
Science shows that centuries of irresponsibility are the cause of most negative climate changes; debating the issues serves no useful purpose.
Strong economies and a cleaner environment are not just compatible, in many ways they are very much dependent on each other.
People, businesses, and government leaders need to start thinking of new solutions to old problems and move forward to progress on two very things that are very dependent on each other.
And contrary to McPherson's quote, lots of people throughout the world, at all levels of the economic totem pole, are indeed counting their money and helping us all to breathe easier due to investments made in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
This post covers:
- Environmental Investment is Indeed a Good Thing
- Investments in Renewables and Energy Efficiency Creating Wealth & Jobs
- The Numbers: US Jobs in Renewable Energy and Other "Green Jobs"
- How Does the USA Stack Up Against Other Nations?
- Where are the Jobs Worldwide?
- A Note About Incentives
Role of Incentives
We do like incentives when they are fair, make sense and are well-managed and not customized for a limited few. Properly managed, incentivs for renewable energy and energy efficiency let all sorts of people to move into new technologies without cutting corners (in terms of quality or the environment) to save a few bucks.
Incentives have proven to:
We're trying to keep this post focused on jobs, so at the end of the page is a special "Note About Incentives."
Countries throughout the world, including the USA, continue to embrace renewable energy and greener ways to build and live. Often, there are significant returns on the investment.
Shortly after reading that you can't breathe and make money, we read an article about how well many "clean energy investments" are doing.
It's true that there were some highly publicized failures of certain renewable energy companies. Despite that, clean energy stocks have consistently provided larger ROI in recent years.
In fact, over the past two years renewable energy stocks have done far better than investments in traditional energy companies.
Environmentalists love energy companies that don't pollute. That should be obvious. Not so obvious: So do investors...
Stocks of clean-energy companies are proving to be better investments than those of companies that produce most of the Western Hemisphere's power, and are outperforming the rest of the stock market as well.
The evidence is found in the New York Stock Exchange Bloomberg Americas Clean Energy Index. Its 141 companies, all based in North and South America, returned 32.62 percent in the past two years.
In contrast, the 40 conventional-energy companies in the Standard and Poor's 500 Energy Index returned 1.02 percent over the same period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Clean energy also is beating the rest of the stock market. The Clean Energy Index is up 6.02 percent so far this year. Lagging behind are both the S&P 500 and the Russell 3000 Index, which gained 3.12 percent and 3.86 percent respectively in 2015.
The clean-energy advantage is two years old, and it has been sneaking up for a decade." Source: "Clean Energy Companies Beat the Stock Market," Matthew Winkler, Bloomberg View, RenewableEnergyNews.com, July 1, 2015.
Investments in Renewables and Energy Efficiency Creating Wealth & Jobs
Stock performance is one economic indicator. Another key indicator: jobs and job growth and since 2008, renewable energy has consistently created jobs.
2013 was one of the worst years for job creation in recent years, with new jobs falling far short of expectations. The good news: Green Job creation was far ahead of almost all other sectors.
While Green Jobs represented just under one percent of all US jobs in 2013, Green Jobs created 3.64 percent of all new jobs:
- 145 million total US jobs in 2013
1.4 million Green Jobs
- 2,2 million new jobs in 2013
80,000 (3.64 percent) of all new jobs were Green Jobs
Leading the pack is renewable jobs is the solar energy sector, which created 93,000 new jobs between 2009 and 2013. It's true that incentives have played a large part in the growth of solar energy, but it's not the only reason.
Here's another fact: since 2010, all sorts of incentives continually have been cut for the "good of the economy."
Solar has persevered through these cuts, as have many other renewable sectors. In contrast, jobs in the renewable wind sector have steadily declined as incentives have been removed. up
93,000 jobs (or nearly tripling of jobs) in a relative new industry is substantial at any time. Given the state of the economy between 2009 and 2013, it is a particularly good example of how renewable energy and the economy can be interdependent in a positive fashion.
Without a doubt, tax incentives and subsidies helped this growth. But: since may incentives for solar energy and other renewables went away between 2009 and 2013, incentives surely aren't the only reason for the growth of solar power, solar jobs, and more recently, significant returns on investment for clean energy companies.
Comparing Wind to Solar: A Practical Viewpoint
We don't have facts to back this up, but we don't think incentives or lack thereof are the only reason solar jobs and solar power continued to rise while the wind sector suffered.
Solar is often easier to install with less opposition that wind energy:
- Most buildings can accommodate solar panels; few property owners can accommodate wind turbines
- Large scale solar farms are easier to site than wind farms because they can be "hidden" from the public view a lot easier and still work effectively
Any one that doubts this need only look at the long contested Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound. Opponents of the project (primarily NIMBY's whose waterfront properties face Nantucket Sound and the New England fishing industry, despite years of years of decreasing fish stocks in the project area) required Cape Wind undergo one of the most complex and expensive projects to permit in history.
We are presenting the jobs for US Renewable and Green Jobs in two formats to show how the pieces fall together and to clearly show the original numbers.
These figures come many articles and papers, mostly from RenewableEnergyWorld.com and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA.org) including IRENA's Renewable Energy and Jobs - Annual Review 2014.
Job figures cited were compiled by IRENA using “data from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Bureau of Labor Statics (BLS), as well as international organizations, national non-profits, think tanks and national trade associations.”
|2013 US Green Jobs
Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Sectors
|The numbers do show a certain amount of overlap, one reason data is presented in both pie chart and tabular formats.|
What are Green Jobs?
Since many of these sectors and terms are new, finding accurate and unbiased information can be difficult and to a certain extent there is some overlap.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has set clear definitions of Green Jobs, defining them as:
1. Jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources.
2. Jobs in which workers' duties involve making their establishment's production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources. 3
As with the USA, worldwide job growth is mostly seen in the solar sector.
In many ways these numbers are impressive. But considering the world population in 2013 was 7 billion and counting, 6.5 million is actually a small, but growing number.
On a more positive note, renewable energy is growing rapidly in "under developed" and "undeveloped countries" and the 2016 for 2015 renewable and energy efficient jobs should show significant increases in most sectors.
Certainly, the USA is not the only country in the world that realizes energy independence (and that does means continued expanding reliance on renewable, non-fossil fuels) is not only good for the environment and the economy, it's good for national security.
A few things immediately stand out from this graphic:
- US (2013 population: 316.5 million) is behind Brazil (2013 population: 200 million)
- Factoring in Germany's population (2013: 80.62 million), US also is significantly behind Germany.
- Brazil's economic growth in recent years cannot be separated from its move towards energy independence and renewable energy. Brazil's economy recovery includes a dedicated move from hydropower and fossil fuels to solar, biomass and wind.
- Not even a blip for Russia, who has lots of oil and natural gas even though much of its oil prohibitively expensive to extract with today's technology.
- India undoubtedly will show much higher figures when the 2016 survey is published
- What's up with Holland (exceptional scientists and engineers)?
- What's going on with other large and/or densely populated countries: Japan, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, and Mexico immediately come to mind as places where renewable energy could solve lots of social, economic and/or environmental problems.
While the US and many countries of the World are making significant strides towards cleaner and more sustainable economies and energy, there still is a great deal of work to do.
There were three separate economic stimulus packages implemented between February 2008 and February 2009, two by President Bush; one by President Obama. Many people often confuse the three packages with the infamous "bailout" bill after the economic crisis of October 2008 and some people think most of the incentives were started by liberal tree hugging Democrats.
Not so: all three packages included significant incentives for renewable energy, including the two Bush stimulus packages. True, Obama cut some things put in by Bush and extended/expanded other renewable incentives.
Due to "economic conservatives" who believe a choice must be made between the economy and the environment, renewable incentives created by both Presidents Bush and Obama have been drying up since 2010.
Will this trend continue?
We hope not, and ironically the same politicians who vote againt incentives are mostly the same ones who are voting to roll back the Environmental Protection Act, the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.
- Here's a Thought: Why not give polluters tax incentives so they can upgrade their facilities?
- Here's a Question: How much money have, do and will some major polluters continue to spend on lobbyists to weaken clean air and water standards, money that could be used to fix the problem?
Maybe these people are who Guy McPherson said try holding their breath while counting a money.
Lobbyists may have the money, but ultimately voters have the decision making power, assuming that people:
- Are active and take the time to learn all sides of issues important to them, instead of being swayed by 15 or 30 second ads.
- Actually get out and vote.
- Contact their congressional representative and senators and express their opinion. Regardless of lobbyists' money, most politicians understand that know that if anyone who cares enough to email or call will most likely vote.
Businesses must move to cleaner, more sustainable practices. Sink or swim time isn't that far away. Why should everyone go down with them?
It's been said that "A rising tide lifts all boats." It's also been said that "a rising tide will some boats and others will run aground."
If companies run aground because they can't or won't be energy efficient, maybe it's time to let economic Darwinism take it's course.
Moving business overseas to skirt environmental protection is both bad for the US economy and for the worldwide environment. Allowing companies to bypass Clean Water or Air standards is no longer a viable solution, even for the short-term.
Tides are rising and so are sea levels; everyone already is or soon will be negatively impacted. The strange weather of the past ten years is indeed related to climate change, regardless of what climate change is blamed on.
Climate change can't be blamed only on volcanic activity, flatulent cattle, or naturally occurring rhythms of the Earth. Are these contributors. Of course, but not nearly as much as pollution and traditional sources of power.
All of us need to think more creatively and move to more sustainable living and business practices, or everyone will suffer the consequences.
The numbers show that many businesses, investors, and workers are benefiting by greener and more sustainable ways of doing things. Of course not enough is being done. But it is a very good, and for some a very profitable, start. .
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1. International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2014, May 2014 (biannual report)
2. Fact Sheet: Renewable Energy Job Numbers, Laura Small and Yi Xu, RenewableEnergyWorld.com, January 7, 2015
3. The BLS Green Jobs Definition, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 25, 2013