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MYTH #102: Renewable energy kills jobs


Switching to renewable energy would be dangerous to the economy.


Clean energy is one of the world's fastest growing industries, and it employs millions of people in America alone.

The best way to create jobs and grow the economy is to invest in clean, renewable energy like wind, solar and geothermal power. Clean energy is one of the world's fastest growing industries. Global investment in clean energy climbed to $260 billion worldwide in 2011, a record high. That’s a 5% climb compared to 2009 and five times the investment made in 2004. And 2010 was the first time that investment in renewable energy surpassed investment in fossil fuels. According to one estimate, global clean energy investment will grow by another $140 billion by 2021.

All this investment creates jobs. Just look at the solar industry in the U.S., where jobs more than doubled from 2009 to 2011. According to one comprehensive study, the green energy economy (which includes clean energy) employs 3.1 million Americans today. Clean energy investment is a smart jobs plan. Pollution isn’t.

More info from The Climate Reality Project

In 2010, for the first time ever, the world invested more money in new renewable power plants than in new fossil fuel power plants. And over the last two years, clean, renewable sources of energy accounted for about half of new electricity capacity (PDF) installed worldwide.

So who is building the wind turbines, installing the solar panels and running the geothermal plants that account for this increase in clean energy? Well, people are. In other words, investment in renewable energy means jobs (PDF).

For instance, take the solar energy industry in the U.S., which as of August 2011 employed more than 100,000 workers in every state. The overall U.S. economy only grew 0.7% from August 2010 to August 2011. But over the same period, the solar industry grew 6.8%, making it one of the fastest-growing sectors in the country.

American colleges are taking note of the boom in the renewable energy industry — and the need for skilled workers. The Oregon Institute of Technology started offering the first North American bachelor’s degree in renewable energy in 2005, and the number of schools with clean-tech course offerings is growing.

But you don’t even need a college degree to get a good-paying job in the clean economy. In 2009, workers with a high school diploma or less held nearly half of the renewable energy jobs in the U.S. And on average, low- and middle-skilled workers make more money in clean economy jobs than their counterparts in the rest of the U.S. economy. This is good news for metro and rural areas alike.

That’s what’s happening right now. So just imagine how many jobs will be created as we continue to invest in renewable energy and build a clean energy economy. The more wind farms and solar panels we build, the more smart power lines and energy-efficient buildings, the more people will need to be employed to make our clean energy future a reality.

Small business owners understand the job-creation benefits of renewable energy. Just look at the April 2012 poll of 600 small business owners from six U.S. states: Nearly three quarters of those surveyed agreed that investments in clean energy have an “important role in boosting our national economy and creating jobs now.”