By Naveen Athrappully
Jobs in the U.S. oil and coal industry fell in 2021 while employment expanded in the green energy sector, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Energy.
The energy sector employed over 7.8 million Americans in 2021, a 4 percent increase from 2020, the Energy Department said in a report (pdf) released on June 28. Overall, energy jobs grew faster than the U.S. workforce.
In 2021, the fuel sector employed 908,422 people, down 29,270 jobs from 2020. Within fuels, only biofuels registered a positive growth with 1,180 job additions. Petroleum lost 31,593 jobs while coal lost 7,125 jobs. Percentage-wise, job loss in coal was the biggest in the sector at 11.8 percent.
While employment in fuels fell, jobs in all other sectors covered by the report—electric power generation, transmission, distribution, storage, energy efficiency, and motor vehicles—increased.
In the electric power generation sector, solar jobs rose by 17,212, wind by 3,347, hydropower by 1,383, combined heat and power by 996, bioenergy by 349, and geothermal by 220 jobs. Employment in coal power generation declined by 572 jobs while nuclear power generation fell by 2,440 jobs.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told reporters that the energy department report showed “good news to build on” to reach President Joe Biden’s clean energy goals, according to Reuters. She also forecasts fossil fuel-related jobs to rise in 2022 as drillers produce more oil in response to rising demand and a supply gap created due to the removal of Russian oil from international markets.
“We want to see an increase in supply,” Granholm said about petroleum. “But ultimately, most project that there will be a demand curve that comes down and that this transition (to cleaner energy) will happen.”
Push For Green Energy
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, oil industry workers left the sector in droves. The Biden administration’s push for green energies has also not helped. Oil refineries have shut down, affecting America’s refining capacity. In 2020, there were 135 total refineries in the country. This has now fallen to 130, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Given the persistent push to switch to green energy, many refiners do not see any financial sense in further investment. “We’ve seen refineries closed. We’ve seen units come down. We’ve seen refineries being repurposed to become bio refineries,” Chevron CEO Mike Wirth said at a conference on June 1.
During his election campaign, Biden had pledged to “end fossil fuel.” The Biden administration has canceled oil lease sales in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.
There were about 3,000 permits and 5,900 development leases caught up in environmental litigation, Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, said in a June 16 interview with Fox News.
“There comes a point and time where you also get extremely frustrated with the unpredictability and (lack of) stability,” Jeremy Davis, who was laid off from an oil field job in Texas in 2020, said to Reuters.
Though he is open to coming back to the energy sector, Davis is put off by insufficient compensation, remote locations, and arduous conditions of the industry.