When Donald Trump became President of the United States in 2016, he inherited a growing green economy. Despite his stated intent to focus on boosting the fossil fuel industries, jobs and dollars in everything from solar energy to environmental science are booming, while oil and coal jobs stagnate. But, the United States is still in danger of falling behind in what might be the biggest economic shift since the IT revolution. Green mobility and a shift to cleaner electricity could not only be answer to a healthy environment, but also a growing economy.
- The EV market is expected to hit 350,000 units in the United States this year and continue to grow rapidly into the foreseeable future.
- All of those EVs will push electricity demands and a choice will have to be made how to meet those demands.
- The fossil fuel industry would love to fill those demands, meaning politicians would love to see fossil fuel grow as well.
- The booming of the green economy could make clean energy not only the best choice for the environment, but also for the economy.
President Trump shakes hands with a coal miner. (Photo: Getty Images)
Scotty, we need more power
Electric vehicle sales in the United States are expected to reach 350,000 units in 2020; according to projections by IHS Markit. That may seem like a huge number, but it will only represent around two percent of the entire American car market. By 2025, those same projections have EV sales at over 1.1-million, or seven percent of the market, with continued growth into the foreseeable future. As more and more drivers go electric, the question to ask is, where will the electricity come from to charge all these cars?
According to the US Department of Energy, electric vehicle adoption alone will cause a 1.6 percent annual growth of demand for electricity, which equates to 80 terawatt-hours per year. If you’re curious, total solar power output for the entire United States was 2.3 percent in 2018, or a little over 96 terawatt hours. In 2018, the United States produced about 95 percent of all energy used, with the remainder being supplied by imported fossil fuels.
Green is growing
The green economy is one of the fastest growing sectors not only in the US, but around the world. Between 2013 and 2016, businesses deemed to be part of the environmental sector generated 1.3-trillion dollars and employed 9.5-million people according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Renewable energy production accounts for 309-billion dollars of that total amount and continues to rise.
By 2030, 50 percent of all energy in the United States will be from renewable sources and estimates place the United States energy production mix by 2050 to be almost 50 percent solar. That much energy will require a mixture of large-scale industrial generation as well as consumer-sized rooftop generation. The best part of this, is even being in what most consider the early stages of the solar power switch, power from the sun can be made at the same price as natural gas electricity.
Automation not regulation is killing jobs
Besides the impenetrable wall that Mexico paid for and not having enough time to golf, Trump has also pledged to save the fossil fuel industry. His campaign promises included adding 400,000 new jobs and 700-billion dollars to the economy over the next 30 years.
The fossil fuel industry employs roughly 1-million people in the United States. That number continues to decline, despite rollbacks on environmental regulations and slowdown in solar proliferation due to trade tariffs.
Some are quick to blame regulations, but mechanization is the real culprit. In 1980, it took 52 miners to produce a ton of coal per hour. By 2015, better machinery and processes had brought that manpower number down to just 16 miners to produce the same amount of coal.
Cheap oil is expensive
According to a report from the International Monetary Fund, the United States spends more money subsidizing the fossil fuel industry than it does on defense. That should shock you. The IMF reported the fossil fuel industry received 649-billion dollars out of tax payer pockets while the pentagon received a mere 599-billion dollars.
Globally, the number is staggering, with the IMF reporting fossil fuel subsidies at 4.7-trillion US dollars. The United States was the second largest contributor, falling well short of 1.4-trillion US dollars.
The green economy is booming, quickly creating even more jobs than the fossil fuel industry is losing. (Photo: Getty Images)
How to pay for greener energy
It is true that building the infrastructure for clean energy is more expensive than traditional fossil fuel plants. Even onshore wind, the cheapest of the clean energy alternatives, is about 20 percent more expensive per kilowatt than a natural gas plant. If we assume that cutting fossil fuel subsidies is impossible for “political reasons,” what is the next best alternative?
Edward Barbier, a professor of Economics at Colorado State and the author of the United Nation’s Global Green New Deal from 2010, has a plan that will not only pay for new infrastructure, but cut down on greenhouse gas emissions in the process.
His plan involves a carbon tax that would collect $20 per metric ton emitted. The average American is responsible for an estimated 20 metric tons annually. The tax would create a fund worth nearly 100-billion a year, but it’s estimated that the extra incentive to consider your carbon footprint would eliminate 11-billion metric tons of carbon emissions through 2030.
Barbier’s plan would likely fund clean energy expansion, but his ultimate goal would be to completely fund America’s Green New Deal. There would be a certain amount of irony in saving the environment for future generations, while also saddling them with debt created doing so.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Nobody should be forced to choose between the environment and the economy. Even if that isn’t the reality of the situation, politicians seem bent on making it look that way. Barriers to electric mobility are continually disappearing, but we can’t deny, the greater energy demand has to be met somehow. If we are going to add capacity, we may as well make it green. Continuing to prop up the fossil fuel industry seems senseless and it’s time for a major shift to the green economy.