With Keystone XL pipeline, Trump invests in a dying industry
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President Trump vowed last week to untangle America’s environmental regulatory process, starting by signing orders to advance the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines. It’s a decision that risks safe drinking water to gain very few jobs.

By launching a blanket attack on health and environmental safety standards and concentrating only on fossil fuel development projects, the administration is missing one of the fastest growing job sectors in America: clean energy.

A closer look: Temporary positions versus industry growth

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Unlike the clean energy industry — which employs workers all across the country in positions with higher-paying wages — the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines would provide mostly temporary jobs in only a few places.

 

For example, over the Keystone’s two construction seasons, positions would concentrate primarily in three states only. Compare that to clean energy and sustainability jobs, which are available in all 50 states.

Most of the jobs on these pipelines are short-term and many are not necessarily considered “new”. In fact, some have already been completed in preparation for the project’s official kick-off. Even more confusing, the majority of the jobs claimed by proponents would fall under “indirect support jobs,” such as food service.

These employment opportunities represent only a small fraction of the U.S. economy, especially when compared to the estimated 73,000 new jobs that were created in the solar industry in 2016. In fact, a recent report from the Department of Energy found that U.S. solar alone employs more people than oil, coal and gas combined in the electric power generation sector.

Those are numbers we cannot afford to ignore.

Moving away from a shrinking industry

Our report Now Hiring: The Growth of America's Clean Energy & Sustainability Jobs shows that the future of jobs lies in the sustainability and clean energy market.

This isn’t a small, niche workforce. Sustainability now collectively represents an estimated 4-4.5 million jobs in the U.S. These jobs — which span multiple sectors of the economy, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and the public and private spheres — are well paying, local and on the rise.

The continued job growth we’ve seen in the renewable energy sector particularly, is in stark contrast to the trends across the energy sector.

For example, renewable energy jobs in the U.S. have grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6 percent since 2012, while the annual growth rates of the fossil fuel extraction industry has declined by -4.25 (CAGR) over the same period.

Solar alone is growing at a rate 12 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy, surpassing jobs in oil and gas extraction for the first time in 2015.

The data says it all: sustainable and clean jobs foster economic growth. So Trump — who prides himself on his business savvy — must support these growing industries if he wants to deliver on promises to bring back America’s jobs.

Liz Delaney is the program director of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Climate Corps,  a summer fellowship program that embeds trained, custom-matched graduate students inside leading organizations to accelerate clean energy projects and strategy. Follow @LizDelaneyLobo.


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