A recent review of the US energy sector has discovered that despite the past decade’s oil and gas boom, the green economy employed 10 times as many people as the fossil fuel industry, and was worth $1.3 trillion, or about 7 per cent of US GDP.
Lucien Georgeson and Mark Maslin, both with University College London, found that in 2015-2016, the US fossil fuel sector, from coal mines to gas power plants, employed roughly 900,000 people. In that same period, the green economy employed ten times as many workers—nearly 9.5 million, or 4 percent of the working age population.
These employment figures were also an indicator of rapid growth in the green sector, having risen by more than 20 percent in the period between 2013 and 2016. Along with the $1.3 trillion in annual revenue, his means that the US green market was the largest in the world.
The sheer size of the American green economy had remained hidden for over six years, as budget cuts within the Bureau of Labor Statistics prompted the bureau to halt documenting job growth in the green market in March 2013. The lack of data prevented policy makers from making informed decisions on what would later prove to be a major sector of growth.
To fill in this crucial gap in the data, Georgeson and Maslin “analyzed massive databases to record the latest available business transactions from every country in the world,” Georgeson and Maslin wrote in The Conversation. “We estimated sales revenue and employment figures across 24 economic sub-sectors covering renewable energy, environmental protection, and low carbon goods and services – collectively termed the green economy.”
In their excavation of the data, Georgeson and Maslin found that the global green economy’s revenue for 2016 came in a $7.87 trillion, meaning that the US’s $1.3 trillion made up 16.5 percent of the global share, and 15 percent ahead of China’s $1.13 trillion, the second largest green market.
The employment figures for the fossil fuel industry included jobs such as miners, electricity grid workers, infrastructure manufacturers and construction workers, but despite being a sector that receives heavy subsidies from the government, the US fossil fuel industry’s 2015 revenues were estimated to only be $649 billion.
In their article in The Conversation, Georgeson and Maslin are not shy regarding their opinion on President Donald Trump’s campaign promises, including the pledge to add 400,000 new jobs to the fossil fuel industry, and increase the industry’s economic output by $700 billion over the next 30 years.
They point out that between 2013 and 2016, the green economy grew by $60 billion each year, eclipsing Trump’s lofty promise to the fossil fuel sector—one that would require $23 billion in annual growth to be fulfilled—by a wide margin; over the same period, the coal sector alone shed 37,000 jobs.
The authors also point out that by abandoning the green economy, Trump has allowed China to make significant gains in the world’s green energy market. In 2017, Beijing announced plans to invest USD $361 billion in clean energy by 2020, a move expected to create 13 million jobs, and one that could position China, previously number two on the world stage, ahead of the US.