by Chad Small
At least in terms of the job market, 2021 was a good year for renewable energy. A report released earlier this week by the Department of Energy found that nearly every part of the renewable energy sector added jobs last year. And despite a rise in fossil fuel production, the number of oil and gas-related jobs actually declined — with some industry workforces shrinking by as much as 12 percent.
Overall, jobs in the energy sector grew by about 4 percent, or about 300,000 jobs. But job gains in renewable energy markets were so strong that they effectively masked losses from several fossil fuel industries; the solar industry added tens of thousands of workers while fossil fuel industries specializing in petroleum and coal hemorrhaged nearly 40,000 workers.
The “green transportation” boom has had meaningful changes for job markets in some auto industry-heavy states where jobs have been drying up over time. In Michigan, for example, where 65 percent of all energy technology jobs are in the motor vehicle industry, Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she hopes the boom in electric and hybrid vehicle investments could advance both the state’s economic and emissions goals.
“Michigan’s economy is on the move and thanks to our hardworking people and innovative businesses, we are now a top three state for clean energy vehicle job growth,” said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
It’s also possible that the trend of renewable energy job growth and fossil fuel job decline will not persist into 2022. With the war in Ukraine affecting global fuel markets and driving up gas prices, President Biden has pushed for more domestic fossil fuel production. That call could mean more fossil fuel jobs are on the way.
“You’ll see an increase in employment that corresponds with the increase in supply,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.
Regardless, several members of Congress have vowed to sustain state-level support for the green energy jobs and the renewables industry.