Renewable energy jobs start to add up

Leslie Carlson

In the midst of the non-stop gloom and doom economic news, there’s great news about job creation in renewable energy. The wind industry now employs more people than coal mining, according to CNN. Wind industry jobs have increased an incredible 70 percent over the past year, up to 85,000 jobs in total, which includes 13,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector—and manufacturing (think: auto industry) is one of the hardest hit sectors of the economy overall.

More good news: we appear to be tapping only a small portion of the job growth potential, since renewable energy overall supplies only a tiny fraction of the nation’s electricity supply (about 3 percent). Coal, on the other hand, supplies about 50 percent of the nation’s electricity.

Governor Kulongoski’s efforts to prioritize renewable energy in the 2009 budget look ever more prescient when you consider these statistics and the possibility that investment in renewable will create more jobs in Oregon.

I believe we should also consider helping struggling universities and community colleges to help train those workers for the green jobs of the future. We certainly don’t want this to happen again, now or in the future.

 

Comments

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Just so you know, thanks to the addition of ethanol to fuel one of my not very good mileage vehicles now gets much worse mileage and has less power. Between the added expense of the fuel (both out of pocket and in subsidies), the worse mileage (more money), and the loss of power (even worse mileage under demand) you have additional carbon dioxide from more volume burnt per mile and more expense. What you get is a somewhat smaller use of actual gasoline. By a dollar per mile measurement it would be stupid, by a carbon dioxide emission per mile it isn't real good, but it does marginally affect petroleum usage - so I guess you can feel good about it, sort of. Maybe.

    Then when you buy your groceries you may feel less good about it, if your dollar at the checkout means anything. It cost you more to get to the store and back and so that you could pay more for that, your groceries cost more - at least anything planted or plant dependent. Since I'm a huge booster of science and engineering, I'm scarcely making a case for waste of petroleum by inefficiency, but...

    If you want to kick me for owning a hotrod, I'll point out to you that other than you bicycle drivers I get more BTUs out of a gallon of fuel than you do. I also hardly drive the hotrod. My work vehicles on the other hand are hurting me with their fuel usage.

  • William (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Chuck, the energy density of gasoline is greater than ethanol, you're quite right. I can't stand it when people act like ethanol as it is produced today is part of a rational energy plan. That having been said, I'm all for switching away from limited energy resources, like oil, Uranium, coal, etc, even if it takes more jobs to get the same amount of energy. Go wind energy, go!

  • WunderBlunder (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Pol Pot had the best idea for renewable energy. Grow rice! We must now grow rice for the proletariets ability to further science and industry and for our glorious leader.

  • riverat (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Chuck, while it's true that ethanol reduces power and mileage the carbon in ethanol is already part of the carbon cycle, but the carbon from gasoline has been sequestered from the environment for 100's of millions of years. So burning ethanol is more or less a net reduction in putting additional carbon into the cycle. The more or less depends on how much fossil fuel is used in producing it. I'm not a huge fan but it's a stopgap measure that is easily adapted to with current technology.

  • Sherry (unverified)
    (Show?)

    There could be no better investment in America than to invest in America becoming energy independent! We need to utilize everything in out power to reduce our dependence on foreign oil including using our own natural resources. Create cheap clean energy, new badly needed green jobs, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. OPEC will continue to cut production until they achieve their desired 80-100. per barrel. If all gasoline cars, trucks, and SUV's instead had plug-in electric drive trains, the amount of electricity needed to replace gasoline is about equal to the estimated wind energy potential of the state of North Dakota. There is a really good new book out by Jeff Wilson called The Manhattan Project of 2009 Energy Independence Now.

  • billy (unverified)
    (Show?)

    riverat:...the carbon from gasoline has been sequestered from the environment for 100's of millions of years. B: Shouldn't we be putting it back, to restore Earth's atmosphere to a more pristine (earlier) state?

    B

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
    (Show?)

    You need a better gig. Seems like bringing up the environment on BO is a license for every pompous gasoline addicted idiot in Oregon to whine and moan about what we don't understand.

    Yeah, Pol Pot had the right idea. Reduce head count.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Chuck, when you add the additional fuel spent growing, harvesting and transporting corn, the petroleum "savings" turns into a loss.

    Ethanol is a net-net loser as an alternative fuel.

  • The Libertarian Guy (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Got a lot of wood in Oregon how about turing that into something other than wood chips?

  • (Show?)

    You need a better gig. Ya think? If only I could find a soapbox that actually paid.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Rarely spoken by corporate hacks is the necessity for turning so-called "wastes" back into the soil in order to replenish it. Our food is far less nourishing today than it used to be because of what we have allowed to happen to our agricultural land.

    Corn ethanol, favored by Obama and his right-of-center crew, is a loser in many ways, but so are all attempts to circumvent the problems derived from our wasteful, ignoble way of life.

    We need massive conservation first. We need to tear out the concrete and plant in its stead. We need to reduce our populations. We need to spend our resources for survival rather than hegemony. We need to reject the duopoly and all that it stands for.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)
    (Show?)

    riverat, WTF are you talking about sequestered? It isn't sequestered once you burn it, for cripes sake, whether its petroleum or corn.

    Stupid feel good responses don't solve our problems, hard headed rational analysis will show you what will work and what to avoid. Ethanol is beyond goddam stupid, there's more petroleum BTUs in the BTU retreivable from ethanol. In what rational world do you spend more petroleum fuel for less in ethanol, not to mention whacking your crop base? I can't do a damn thing about having to drive trucks that burn so much gasoline/ethanol, they have to have enough BTUs to do the work they have to do. I can rail against waste, particularly government mandated waste. I have designed my engines to get as many BTUs as reasonable from a gallon of gasoline to do their work, someone else's efforts to undo that piss me off. My carbon foot print is directly related to those BTUs, no amount of feel good bullshit will change that and now it's been increased along with a boatload of associated costs for myself and my fellow Oregonians.

    Wasting money on stupid means there's less money for smart.

  • Joanne Rigutto (unverified)
    (Show?)

    There was an article, I think it was in the Capital Press a couple of weeks ago, that said a significant portion of the fuel ehtanol plants were shutting down. In the article it said that roughtly 1/3 of the field corn production last year went to fuel grade ethanol production. What's left of the fuel grade ethanol plants will be able to produce about enough ethanol to keep the ethanol/gasoline mix at around 10%.

    I've heard some ethanol proponents say that we could just import ethanol from countries like Brazil. But if one of the main points of adding ethanol to gas was to help get us off of the dependance on foreign oil, I don't see how becoming dependant on foreign ethanol will help matters.

  • riverat (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Chuck,

    The carbon in petroleum and other fossil fuels has been out of circulation sitting underground for 100's of millions of years. When we burn them we put additional carbon into the atmosphere and the carbon cycle. The carbon from ethanol is from CO2 that the corn absorbed from the atmosphere while it was growing. It was already in the atmosphere last year and you're just putting it back to grow more corn. If we don't burn it as ethanol it gets back into the carbon cycle anyway as the corn is consumed or rots. The only way we could semi-permanently remove it is to bury the corn where it will turn into a new coal bed in a few million years. So burning ethanol is a net zero release of additional CO2 to the atmosphere except to the extent that fossil fuels are used to produce it.

    Corn is not the best material for producing ethanol but there's a strong corn lobby in this country so they got a leg up from Washington, DC. That's politics. There are other materials such as switch grass or wood chips or grass seed straw that can be used (sugar cane is working well for Brazil but not practical for most of the US). As long as you can get more energy out in the form of ethanol than you put into producing it then it's a net positive. Research suggests the energy returned on energy invested (EROEI) is about 1.34 for corn (34% more energy out than put in to making and delivering it) but for sugar cane it's about 8 (700% more) and switchgrass may be around 5 (400% more). So we ought to be switching to something better to produce ethanol. One other advantage to using corn for ethanol though is that the distillers grains (the stuff left over after fermentation) are a protein rich food more easily digested by cattle than undistilled corn. That significantly reduces the methane produced by flatulence of the cattle. In the US & Canada far more corn is used as livestock food than human food. So corn ethanol can be a byproduct of producing better feed for cattle.

    Ethanol is a fuel that can be handled by our current infrastructure and most gasoline engines so it serves as a bridge as petroleum based fuels start to phase out. And don't think they won't, we're likely at peak oil now and petroleum fuels will become more expensive and scarce as time goes on. $10/gal or more wouldn't surprise me it 10 or 15 years.

    As far as your fuel efficiency goes, gasoline contains 150,000 BTU/gal and ethanol contains 101,000 BTU/gal. So if you burn 1.5 gal of ethanol to go the same distance as 1 gal of gas will take you then you're burning the same number of BTU's (and about the same amount of carbon) to go that distance regardless of how many gallons you burn. Gasohol (90% gas, 10% ethanol) is about 145,000 BTU/gal. That's 3.26% less than gas. If you're getting 29 MPG on gasohol your producing the same BTU's as if you got 30 MPG on straight gas. But ethanol also can replace MTBE as an anti-knock additive and reduce ground-level ozone formation and benzene, butadiene and particulate emissions when added to gasoline. So even if you get fewer MPG on gasohol it may be all around it's a net benefit environmentally.

    I understand your frustration though. I'm getting around 35 miles less on a tank full than before they started adding ethanol.

    Dave

  • riverat (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Billy (or should I call you JK),

    For the last million years or so (and likely the last 20 million years) the CO2 level of the atmosphere has bounced around between 175 ppm and 300 ppm. Those are the conditions humans and much of the current life on earth have evolved under. Those are the conditions I would consider "pristine". You and I wouldn't enjoy the conditions of 100 million years ago when the CO2 level of the atmosphere was likely over 2000 ppm and temperatures and humidity were significantly higher that they are now. Remember, over 20% of people start feeling discomfort when the level goes over 1000 ppm and the majority of people when it gets over 2000. If we keep on with business as usual we'll hit 1000 ppm around 2100.

    Dave

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Chuck's argument is modest. If you want to read the more spirited version of it, check out the conspiracy theories that say that the mad waste of crop footprint that ethanol involves is to offset growing vegetarian tendencies. Without a parallel waste to fattening cattle, the resulting effect on world food supply would quickly be noticed, and that wouldn't do. They would argue that it's the reason that big oil- the major interest in big agri-business being run like big agri-business- would be relatively accepting of a technology that, on the face of it, would seem to compete with fossil fuels.

    Forget carbon for a minute. Do the likes of billy/JK not see that our fuel consumptive lifestyle is starving people? I'll give Parkher and Carshlock the benefit of the doubt that they only come across as nasty little bastards, and don't see that as a positive effect. If so, we're back to the "how do you explain middle game chess strategy to someone that can only see 3 moves ahead when it isn't the middle game yet?"

    I propose, too, that in this debate, you can't critique without a proposal, no matter how far out. Just has to be possible. So mine is a 150 mile long wire. Probably not literally a piece of copper, but it's the metaphor. You stick it up into the ionosphere and supply all the electrical needs on the planet. There are a few details to work out, but it gets the job done.

  • DJ (unverified)
    (Show?)

    riverat, given that CO2 has been 175-300 ppm for the past 1-20 million years...remind me again...who was it that surveyed comfort level of the early ancestors of hominids before that time???

  • DJ (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Z: "Do the likes of billy/JK not see that our fuel consumptive lifestyle is starving people?"

    Fuel consumption doesn't starve people. Turning food into fuel does.

    It's not news that rationing energy - and that's all carbon taxing/carbon trading is - will serve to starve people too, as the following excerpted Kyoto testimony points out: The greatest risk of current carbon withdrawal policies is that they will fail to achieve any useful result while imposing major costs on the world’s economy. The economic repercussions will fall most heavily on the poor at home and abroad. Starving the world of energy is all too likely to produce a world of more starving people.

  • John Bartley (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Solar power via solar cells will face a significant challenge; a shortage in the best material to make solar cells. However, there is an alternative, and it's outlined in the blog post linked from this post; the Stirling Engine.

  • Richard once more (unverified)
    (Show?)

    For Clean Energy: Layoffs and Plummeting Demand

    http://greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/04/for-clean-energy-layoffs-and-plummeting-demand/

    February 4, 2009 For Clean Energy: Layoffs and Plummeting Demand By Kate Galbraith

    Rich Mattern, the mayor of West Fargo, N.D., thought the wind industry there was “bulletproof.” Not so. (Photo: Dan Koeck for The New York Times)From The New York Times Business section Wednesday:

    Wind and solar power have been growing at a blistering pace in recent years, and that growth seemed likely to accelerate under the green-minded Obama administration. But because of the credit crisis and the broader economic downturn, the opposite is happening: installation of wind and solar power is plummeting.

    Factories building parts for these industries have announced a wave of layoffs in recent weeks, and trade groups are projecting 30 to 50 percent declines this year in installation of new equipment, barring more help from the government.

    Prices for turbines and solar panels, which soared when the boom began a few years ago, are falling. Communities that were patting themselves on the back just last year for attracting a wind or solar plant are now coping with cutbacks.

    “I thought if there was any industry that was bulletproof, it was that industry,” said Rich Mattern, the mayor of West Fargo, N.D., where DMI Industries of Fargo operates a plant that makes towers for wind turbines. Though the flat Dakotas are among the best places in the world for wind farms, DMI recently announced a cut of about 20 percent of its work force because of falling sales.

    Read the full story …

  • riverat (unverified)
    (Show?)

    DJ, It's likely that CO2 has been under 1000 ppm for around 70 or 80 million years. The dinosaurs died out around 65 million years ago (MYA), about the time the primate line of evolution was getting started. The ape line of evolution split off from the old world monkeys about 25 MYA and the hominid line split off from the pan (chimpanzee) line only 3-5 MYA. Life evolves to be comfortable with the environment it finds itself in as long as it's not changing faster than evolution can cope with. So I think your question is moot.

    Dave

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
    (Show?)

    DJ said, "The greatest risk of current carbon withdrawal policies is that they will fail to achieve any useful result while imposing major costs on the world’s economy."

    This is an important argument, one that goes to the heart of the problem with contemporary liberalism. Liberals consistently pose solutions to major problems and then allow the right to split the difference, therebye creating the worst of all possible alternatives, i.e., throwing scarce resources at a problem in a half-assed way that will only exacerbate the problem. (Think about the non-stimulus package.)

    If you really believe that we're on the verge of self-annihilation, then you cannot accept these half measures. Your "pragmatism" and "post-partisan harmony" are killing us softly.

  • riverat (unverified)
    (Show?)

    The problem with those economic arguments is that they fail to take into account the value of the ecosystem services.

    How much is an ecosystem worth that provides clean air to breath, clean water to drink and is the source of all of the food we eat? How much is the ozone layer's blocking of ultra-violet radiation from the sun worth? If we fail to value those things highly enough then eventually we'll get our faces rubbed in it, taking down a lot of other life on this planet in the process.

    Education is the answer but there are powerful political and economic forces supporting the status quo and too many people don't have the knowledge to see through their arguments.

    Dave

  • sandy (unverified)
    (Show?)

    So many innovations have been hide out and washed out, some very good innovations were never promoted and agreed by a part of community. But i know we the youth can make the change to the world. We have so many energies to use from the nature unfortunately we are using it in a wrong way. Read more about Ocean Energy and you will be stunned by knowing what this single source of Energy can do.

    Sandy http://www.justmeans.com

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Cool sandy. Can't believe someone actually proposed something positive instead of the endless naysaying that seems to be so entertaining.

    If you could agree on the CO2 levels in the past, would that automatically translate into policy? No, you would find a new detail to dither about because you're more interested in winning your position than solving a problem.

    We're in an interglacial period, which, by definition, is marked by pronounced warming and cooling trends, on short scales, geologically speaking. The trend over the last 150 million years is not nearly so significant in a thousand year sample. Scientists have not modeled this well, in 75 years of trying, BEFORE it was seen to be consequential in any way. You're going to arm-chair it now, get around that detail, then explain how man is altering that, all in one fell swoop? Second point would be that we are altering the situation. It's just imprudent. You don't have to sort out the effect to say it's imprudent. The atmosphere is tiny. We don't live on the planet, we live on plants. The mental image that we can choose what to leave intact, while preserving the be-all, end-all, human life, is just false. As the plants go, so will mammals.

    In juxtaposition to common-sense prudence are those that are making a quick buck off raping the environment and simply seek to stall everything, anything, for any reason. When you argue with people that are not engaged in a bona fide conversation, only spreading comment spam, you are hurting the environment and your cause. You follow the money and logic of any of the cash-flow mavens and you end up with a conscious policy of breeding out the ass until humans replace everything, everywhere. Realtors, Catholics, et al., have always been out to ruin the environment, not because they hate it, but because of their bloody minded devotion to the spread of homo sapiens.

    OK. No one bit on a wire into the ionosphere, you can go to hell. More specifically, only a few hundred feet below your feet is unlimited heat energy. Why should anyone listen to speculation that we can make coal clean, stripping whole hillsides, when those same individuals claim it isn't feasible to manage a common well-hole at an uncommon depth, for energy? Interested in totally safe nuclear energy? There is such a thing; it's called geothermal energy.

connect with blueoregon