Solar jobs could help some of the people most affected by the current economy — coal miners. They have been seeing jobs in the mines declining for decades. They voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump because he promised to re-open the mines and put the coal miners back to work and they believed him.
It’s not turning out that way. According to the US Energy Information Administration, as of the end of 2015, there were a total of 66,000 coal miners working in the United States, the last year for which figures are available according. In West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania alone, jobs in the solar power industry soared from 51,000 in 2012 to 260,000 by the end of 2015 — more jobs than in coal nationwide. During those same 3 years, West Virginia lost 7,296 coal mining jobs.
“With a near tripling of solar jobs since 2010, the solar industry is an American success story that has created hundreds of thousands of well paying jobs,” Andrea Luecke, president and executive director of The Solar Foundation, said. “In 2016, we saw a dramatic increase in the solar work force across the nation, thanks to a rapid decrease in the cost of solar panels and unprecedented consumer demand for solar installations. More than ever, it’s clear that solar energy is a low-cost, reliable, super-abundant American energy source that is driving economic growth, strengthening businesses, and making our cities smarter and more resilient.”
Economics does not much care what politicians say. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the US Senate flat, out lied to voters last fall when he promised unemployed miners they were going back to work if Trump got elected. No company is going to invest ten cents in coal production if electricity from solar and other renewable sources is cheaper.
Business decisions are not made on oratory or ideology. They are based on return on investment and making a profit. Renewables are clearly the most profitable way to make electricity now and for the foreseeable future. Rather than gutting environmental rules and permitting coal companies to dump coal ash into America’s streams and waterways, it would be far more beneficial for society to provide unemployed miners with job retraining programs so they can find work in the solar energy industry.
Progressive politicians see what solar can do for local economies. Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, says, “Solar is an important part of our ever expanding clean energy economy in Massachusetts, supporting thousands of high-skilled careers across the commonwealth. Through the continued development of solar incentive programs, Massachusetts is positioned to double the amount of solar for half the cost to ratepayers and maintain our position as one of the best states in the country for energy diversity.”
Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg L.P. and three term mayor of New York City adds, “More and more business leaders and investors recognize that climate change presents both risks and opportunities, but they need better information to make informed decisions.”
Meanwhile in West Virginia, coal miners continue to look to Washington to bail them out by sending them back underground to dig more coal. “This election outcome is more than West Virginia’s coal industry could have hoped for,” said West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney. “We have a lot of miners and workers in supporting businesses who are out of work right now. We look forward to working with the Trump administration and the 115th Congress to get our folks back to work.”
The economic winds have changed and the coal industry is in decline worldwide. The government has no more business pandering to coal miners than it does the sons of Conestoga wagon makers. It’s time to face reality and take intelligent steps to deal with it. Wallowing in the past is doing no one any good and will have disastrous consequences for the US environment.
Source: Wheeling News-Register