Just following Earth Day last week, the White House released a new white paper, “Innovation, Investment, and Inclusion: Accelerating the Energy Transition and Creating Good Jobs,” where it finally admitted: “clean energy jobs will not automatically provide high salaries or sufficient protections.” They continue: “Without a Federal strategy for the transition, well-paying jobs could be lost, and new, well-paying jobs may not be created.”
While it’s unclear what this “federal strategy” would entail, this is the first recognition that transitioning jobs from traditional energy sources to renewable energy might not be so easy and painless. Previously, the Biden administration, and John Kerry in particular, have stuck to the narrative that reducing or eliminating jobs in the traditional energy sector will be easily countered by workers taking on “better” jobs in the clean energy sector.
Initial actions taken by Biden, including stopping all federal leasing of oil and gas resources (now extended through the end of June) and cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline permit, have already destroyed job opportunities for many Americans. But only now are they acknowledging the reality that not all energy jobs are equal.
Earlier this month, Politico reported on the wage gap in energy jobs:
Energy industry workers employed by solar and wind power companies earn significantly less than those who mine coal or drill for natural gas, according to data compiled by former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz’s clean energy think tank. For example, the median wage for solar workers is $24.48 an hour compared with $30.33 for those employed by the natural gas sector, which amounts to a roughly $12,000 annual wage gap.
Energy workers on the whole earn more than the typical American, but the highest-paying positions are skewed heavily toward nuclear, utility and natural gas and coal industry workers, the new data show. The wind, solar and construction jobs that would surge under Biden’s policies were well below them on the median pay scale.
The Biden administration must recognize how it harms American workers by pushing exclusively for renewable energy. If they really want to reduce emissions and create more, good-paying jobs, they should focus on expanding nuclear power, our only source of carbon-free, reliable energy and one of the highest-paying energy jobs on the energy market.
While nuclear power jobs only amount to a small fraction of available energy jobs, expanding the use of nuclear power will encourage more workers to pursue the necessary training for these jobs. Let’s hope this moment of honesty on the impact of these energy policies on American workers is followed up with a much needed re-evaluation of how to reduce carbon emissions and produce cleaner power, without needless economic damage.