Around the world, the leaders of great nations have glimpsed the future, and are investing today to be at the forefront of the world’s transition to renewable forms of energy. It’s a competition, to be sure, one that will determine which countries lead in terms of technology, manufacturing, innovation, and new job creation.
Germany, for example, has taken the lead in developing new solar electric generating capacity and is now producing as much as 85-percent of their total electricity on sunny days from photovoltaic panels. In Norway, where virtually all of the electricity is already generated by renewable hydropower, the government has invested in infrastructure and incentives to encourage Norwegians to buy electric cars. Today, more than a third of the vehicles sold in the country are electric and the government has set a goal of 100-percent of new car sales by 2025.
It isn’t just Europe. Earlier this year, Chinese officials announced that the country would invest $360 billion in renewable energy by 2020, with the intention of catching up to other world leaders.
These governments recognize that more than the world’s climate is at stake. They recognize that clean, renewable energy helps reduce their dependence on foreign sources of energy and that it creates huge numbers of new, good-paying jobs.
Unfortunately, here in the U.S., the Trump administration wants to take the country backward, by eliminating investments in renewable energy and putting a focus back on the dirtiest form of energy in the world— coal. It’s like trying to revive the buggy industry at the dawn of the automobile age.
That’s one reason that hundreds of business leaders from across the country, including Chevron and ExxonMobil have urged the Trump administration not to abandon the Paris Climate Accord, nor the commitments to expand the renewable energy sector that come with it. They recognize the economic benefits of the transition that is underway.
At a time when the world has set three consecutive records for the warmest year since records have been kept, there should be no need to argue about the science of climate change, nor the connection between global warming and our burning of CO2-producing fossil fuels. And that debate, to a large extent, exists only in America where the U.S. fossil fuel industry has poured billions into propaganda designed to keep Americans confused about the issue.
But Americans should not be confused about this: If we want new, good-paying jobs, we need to continue to encourage the renewable energy sector. Here’s the reality— coal mining jobs are disappearing, and nothing President Trump does is going to reverse that trend. Increased mechanization would reduce employment in coal mining even if production levels increased. And the market has clearly turned away from coal in either case, and that’s not going to reverse itself just because a U.S. president fails to grasp the future, or believes climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.
While the solar industry remains in its relative infancy, it already dwarfs coal mining as a source of good-paying jobs in America. The solar sector now employs approximately 375,000 people in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Nearly 4,000 Minnesotans now work in this growing sector. Coal mining, by contrast, employs just 65,000 mineworkers nationwide, and zero in Minnesota.
According to Forbes, the solar sector added 73,615 jobs nationally in 2016 alone. In other words, one year’s growth in the solar sector could employ every coal miner in the country, and still need another 8,000 workers on top of that. And that rate of job growth is only expected to increase as solar energy continues its almost exponential rate of growth.
The renewable energy economy is the Next Big Thing, not just in the U.S., but globally. It will mean a vast amount of new employment, new innovation, new technology, and it will leave our air cleaner and our climate more manageable.
There is no rational argument that Americans benefit from being left behind in this energy revolution. For the Trump administration to scrap the Paris Accord and stand in the way of a bright new energy future threatens America’s economy as well as its reputation as a world leader. The new energy future is coming. It’s time to embrace it.