Jobs and Prosperity Are in Clean Energy, Not Destroying the PlanetPhoto by Lukas Schulze Politics Features Environment
With the influx of our new Presidential administration, there has been an attack on science and environmentalism. Donald Trump, his team, and the rest of the Republican Party are making a concerted effort to silence scientific facts—especially those related to climate change—and brand environmentalism as an unnecessary hindrance to the economy. By calling the impending disaster of climate change a hoax, wiping any mention of it on the White House website, and placing federal climate scientists under a gag order, the Republican Party is almost entirely united in their claims that defunding, crushing, and abolishing the EPA as well as other regulatory measures will benefit the American people and the prosperity of the country overall. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
The current course set by the Trump administration and his party is to emphasize dirty energy, resulting in large profits for the industry while cabinet members Rick Perry, Rex Tillerson, and Scott Pruitt reap the benefits. The effort to legalize dumping coal into streams, deregulating corporations that pollute the ozone, selling off public lands for private use, and revitalizing fossil fuel industries will cost us a fortune in the future, potentially destroying our planet irreversibly. As consequences of climate change become more imminent, there is untapped wealth and employment in green energy and renewable resources.
A study from the Rockefeller Foundation found that “more than 3.3 million cumulative job years of employment could be created” in clean, energy-efficient infrastructure retrofits that would be both diverse in geography and qualifications, saving a trillion dollars over ten years.
Though the industry has grown rapidly over the last decade, wind energy only generated 1.8 percent of American electricity in 2009. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 85,000 Americans are currently employed in the industry, which could account for 20 percent of United States’ electricity by the year 2030. Wind energy isn’t just an economical, clean source of energy, it holds the possibility to create thousands of jobs that would be both sustainable and profitable for the country as a whole. In 2016, wind overtook coal as the second largest producer of energy in Europe.
The National Solar Job Census report states that the solar job market grew by 25 percent last year alone, currently employing 260,077 people, showing no signs of slowing down. Tesla has invented a solar panel roof that will break the glass ceiling of frugality in household energy. While Donald Trump has vowed to revamp the oil-dependent auto industry, electric cars from Tesla and others as well as clean, efficient public transportation have an opportunity to become more accessible, replacing old jobs and creating new ones if the country invests in them with reasonable policy. While Trump pledges to revive a limping coal industry, we are just skimming the surface of renewable, eco-friendly power.
Republican lawmakers have outlined a bill to cut emissions with a carbon tax but it also slashes the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. This regulates the fossil industry’s output of carbon emissions and bolsters employment in the industry. Not only will the plan fail to regulate the amount of Co2 pumped into the ozone, it will prolong the inevitable transition to renewable energy as well as the myriad occupations resulting from it. A carbon tax is critical in the fight against global warming but should be implemented with regulations on emissions, not without them. The result of cutting regulation on carbon will allow fossil fuel companies and their interests within the Trump cabinet to contaminate the environment without proper management or supervision despite the tax.
Coal production dropped 10.3 percent in 2015 and the number of employees in the industry fell 12 percent to almost 66,000. Already 20,000 less jobs than the blossoming wind industry, there doesn’t seem to be any future in coal. The market is already beginning to move to clean, renewable energy. There seems to be no logical reason the United States would put effort into creating jobs for a plummeting practice that is extremely harmful to our planet, threatening our streams and forests with legalized dumping, while positioning employees who work in mines to be at risk of health complications. Ostensibly, it seems as though it is merely driven by personal gain and the deluge of campaign promises Trump made to out-of-work miners.
Trump’s choice for Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, is known for his favoritism of coal and oil. Perry recently resigned from the board of Energy Transfer Partners—the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline—and still owns stocks in the company, saying he will relinquish them if confirmed by the Senate, but is not bound by the law to do so. Trump himself was also an investor in the pipeline until he sold his assets to avoid one of his many conflicts of interest. Pipelines also routinely leak oil, damaging nature and putting our people at risk. Perry is also a proponent of burning coal, fracking, and drilling for natural gas while governor of Texas—all of which are harmful to the environment and contribute to the impending calamity of climate change. After signing an executive order speeding up the process of coal permits, Perry received over $600,000 in return from Energy Future Holdings Corporation in addition to other donations. Luckily, a judge was able to halt the order. He has also been a known climate change skeptic but condones all forms of power. Texas under Perry was the leader in wind energy. With Rick Perry at the helm of the Department, it is very possible wind will experience an uptick. The evidence shows there is no reason to believe he will let it deprive his fossil fuel interests, which are engendered in dying industries that are looking to sustain profit.
Former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson has been confirmed and is now the United States Secretary of State. Despite divesting his financial ties to Exxon, he still owns restricted stock in the company that will be waiting for him after he leaves the State Department. The Secretary of State spends much of their time engaged in diplomacy with foreign countries, and Tillerson will spend a lot his effort negotiating in the wartorn and oil-rich Middle East. He could forfeit his remaining 1.3 million shares in stocks and remove the potential conflict of interest but, until then, Tillerson’s stocks will become more valuable if the company prospers.
Like coal, U.S. oil is also in decline, and the supply won’t last forever. The industry took an employment hit unlike any other within the last 25 years between 2014 and 2015, terminating nearly 100,000 jobs. This is in all likelihood a response to the nosedive in production. Nevertheless, the oil business is still a giant when it comes to providing occupations. Over 400,000 jobs are still in the business, all of which would still be covered if we invested in the infrastructure retrofits described by the Rockefeller study as well as the jobs that could be created by investing in green public transit and electric automobiles. The opportunity of clean energy employment, as well as the harm extracting and burning oil does to the planet, are more than enough reason to work towards eliminating our oil dependence.
Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, has spent most of his legal career as Attorney General of Oklahoma combating the EPA in court. Pruitt has clear ties to fossil fuel companies including Devon Energy and the coal company Alliance Resources, receiving nearly $350,000 in contributions from the industry over the last 15 years. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced their lawsuit against him in a statement citing his attempts to cover up ties to fossil fuel interests by withholding thousands of documents from his Senate hearing as a violation of the Constitution. In addition, Pruitt has also sent documents to the EPA that were almost entirely drafted by Devon Energy. It is no secret Pruitt plans to deregulate the companies that have invested in him by using the EPA for both his and their benefit.
Natural gas is another form of energy that is garnered by by companies like Devon drilling. The fossil fuel converts methane into carbon dioxide when it burns, which is then pumped the atmosphere. Though it is much cleaner than coal and oil, releasing natural gas into the ozone is a major cause of climate change. The industry and the 112,000 jobs that come with it are stable, but there is a fear among scientists that natural gas, like oil, will run out. Right now, no one knows for sure if or when it will or what the consequences will be. Still, it is easily possible the benefits of clean energy could replace those jobs and save money from avoiding the destructive economic effects of the planet’s warming.
The immediate consequences of destroying the planet are, of course, somewhat foreseeable. The Union of Concerned Scientists reports that sea-level rise, floods, droughts, wildfires, and other natural disasters will dilapidate infrastructure including buildings, dams, bridges, power lines, and levees. In addition, productivity will wane by harming trade, transportation, agriculture, and raising health risks. The National Climate Assessment states on their website that “climate change poses a major challenge to U.S. agriculture because of the critical dependence of the agricultural system on climate and because of the complex role agriculture plays in rural and national social and economic systems.” Climate refugees will also be a source contributing to mass migration, precarious economic outcomes, and national security instability after displaced people leave their homes due to war, poverty, drought, and other extreme weather conditions. This has already begun in parts of Africa and the Middle East.
A study from the Weekly International Journal of Science, Nature, found that global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would be 23 percent lower than it would be if the warming of the planet continues on its current course. The study used past correlations between temperature and economic output in order to come up with how warming will affect global economics.
“The 23 percent impact is an average around the world. In poorer countries it could be much larger than that,” said researcher of the study Marshall Burke, professor at Stanford University School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences. “Climate change is likely to exacerbate inequality. In a lot of poor countries, energy access is currently really bad. We want improved access in poor countries. The dollar amount depends on how big you think the economy is going to get, the cost of climate change is going to be from 10 to 100 trillions of dollars. Specifically, with a large impact in the developing world. If we can bring the cost down in alternative energy that will benefit everyone.”
“What our results in this study suggest are job benefits of building up these new industries,” he said. “There are long-run benefits of avoided damages.” The effects on crops, laborers of all kinds, and natural resources will all be affected by a warming planet. “We have good evidence that agriculture will be hit pretty hard,” Burke said. “We see effects of temperature in industrial output, but these effects are somewhat smaller than agriculture.”
Another Citi Group study reported that global GDP could fall as much as $72 trillion at a warming of 4.5 degrees Celsius—and $20 trillion at 1.5 degrees—which we could be within a year if the countries in the Paris Climate Agreement don’t hold up their pledge to keep warming under that number. Donald Trump is expected to withdraw from the agreement.
The Republican Party’s anti-climate science, anti-environmentalism stance isn’t about forging wealth for the American people. It is about lining the pockets of the administration and their rich, immoral, and criminal beneficiaries. These people know a Green Revolution is inevitable, and they’re doing everything they can to cash in now while there is still money to be made and nature to destroy.
The real money, jobs, and prosperity are in eco-friendly energy, renewable resources, and occupations in environmentalism. Greed is an ever-flowing river filled with coal, and the river is poisoning an ocean it never has the chance to meet.
Ryan Beitler is a journalist, fiction writer, musician, and blogger. He has written for PASTE Magazine, OC Weekly, Addiction Now, and his travel blog Our Little Blue Rock He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org