While coal industry mouthpieces like the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity tout coal as the second-coming of Jesus for the United States, the latest Vital Signs report shows that coal industry employment has fallen by half in the last 20 years, despite a one-third increase in production.
According to the new report out today by the Worldwatch Institute, a transition to renewable energy sources promises significant global job gains at a time when the coal industry has been hemorrhaging jobs for years.
An estimated 2.3 million people worldwide currently work either directly in renewables or indirectly in supplier industries. The solar thermal industry employs at least 624,000 people, the wind power industry 300,000, and the solar PV industry 170,000. More than 1 million people work in the biomass and biofuels sector, while small-scale hydropower employs 39,000 individuals and geothermal employs 25,000.
These figures are expected to swell substantially as private investment and government support for alternative energy sources grow.
Will the US finally wake up and smell the opportunity of a cleaner energy sector?
Jeff Biggers on the Huffington Post points to the coal-grown Appalachian region in West Virginia as a potential boom-town for wind power:
If Senator Barack Obama ever needs a living symbol of change we can believe in, and a hopeful way to transcend the dirty politics of our failed energy policies, he should go and see the future of renewable energy in the Coal River Valley in West Virginia.”