The Interior report pushed for full cost accounting of energy sources, which means incorporating health and environmental effects into costs. The production of fossil fuels, in particular, “generates a waste stream that can damage human health and the environment,” the report said.
To highlight that point, Interior cited a National Research Council study that suggested coal electricity generation carried external costs equal to 70 percent of its market price. For natural-gas heat production, that figure was 42 percent.
For renewable energy sources, Interior said, the full cost accounting method should consider the impact that solar panels have on land use and the effect wind turbines have on bird populations, among other factors.
Interior said renewable energy, and especially wind and solar power, will play a larger role in the nation’s energy production in the years ahead. It cited a Bureau of Labor Statistics report that said job growth in renewable production is possible despite an overall decline in utility jobs through the end of the decade.
That trend could also spell more jobs, the report said.
“As these sectors expand, there will be a growing need for more high and low skilled workers to construct, maintain, and operate plants,” the report said.
Interior generated another $41 billion in economic activity and 290,000 jobs last year through its use of water, timber and other resources, the report said.