An Eco-Friendly Gold Rush – Green Energy Industry Booming, Out-Paces Coal and Gas

An Eco-Friendly Gold Rush - Green Energy Industry Booming, Out Paces Coal and Gas 1

February 28th, 2017

By Carolanne Wright

Contributing writer for Wake Up World

While thousands marched in Los Angeles, California this month, in protest of the presidential executive order to restart construction of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, a green revolution is quietly taking the world by storm. A heartening new report has found solar and wind jobs are growing 12 times faster than the US economy, with no end in sight.

While staunch Republicans continue to tow the party line in favor of archaic and damaging coal and gas, sustainable energy technology is flourishing not only in the US, but also in China, India and Brazil. Green energy just may be the next gold rush for business and investors alike — with the added bonus of preserving, instead of destroying, the environment. What’s not to like?

The Future of Energy is Here Now

Having grown up in California, as well as living in Montana for several years, I’ve seen firsthand how devastating the fossil fuel industry can be. While California is known for its progressive policies and environmentally-friendly legislation, the state has its fair-share of oil field and fracking wastelands. Bakersfield, in Central California, fits the bill as a veritable “hell on earth.” Hot, dusty and bleak, the oil fields span for miles. What once were gentle, golden, rolling hills is now the garbage can of the oil industry.

Los Angeles has oil wells within view of the highway, pumping away, 24/7. And Richmond, in Northern California, is home to an enormous gas refinery complex on the shores of one of the most beautiful bays in the world. I remember as a child associating the city with a “hold your nose” kind of air — foul to the extreme.

Jump to NW Montana years later and an idyllic resort town by the name of Whitefish. A gateway to one of our most stunning national parks — Glacier — Whitefish is a small town rich in natural beauty and Wild West heritage. But, as you walk over the viaduct, you witness trains passing below pulling cars filled to the brim with massive chunks of coal, on their way to be exported out of the US.

Then there were the “bomb cars” — tanks filled with gas from the fracking wells just outside of Glacier. One misstep and a monumental disaster of flammable, leaking toxins would all but guarantee we could kiss our turquoise blue river and lake, along with the pristine environment, goodbye.

But take heart. It’s not all doom and gloom on the environmental front. People are waking up to the potential of sustainable energy — even in ultra-conservative Montana, where wind farms and solar are becoming increasingly common. And of course, California is well-known for leading the charge in sustainable energy, with many states following suit.

A Golden Era of Wind and Solar Energy

“Solar power, for the first time, is becoming the cheapest form of new electricity.” ~ Bloomberg Technology

For years, one of the main hindrances of using solar was the expense of implementing the technology. But thanks to drastically lower manufacturing and installation costs, unsubsidized solar is now as cheap as coal, natural gas, and even wind projects in emerging markets.

“This year (2016) has seen a remarkable run for solar power. Auctions, where private companies compete for massive contracts to provide electricity, established record after record for cheap solar power. It started with a contract in January to produce electricity for $64 per megawatt-hour in India; then a deal in August pegging $29.10 per megawatt hour in Chile. That’s record-cheap electricity — roughly half the price of competing coal power.” [source]

As an added perk, renewable energy jobs stay regional due to their on-site nature. It’s impossible to outsource these positions — which is good news for local economies. The jobs also pay above average wages.

“Many jobs in the solar and energy efficiency space are in installation, maintenance and construction, making these jobs inherently local and contributing to the growth of local economies. Average wages for energy efficiency jobs are almost $5,000 above the national median, and wages for solar workers are above the national median of $17.04 per hour.” [source]

In fact, green energy creates more jobs than those in the fossil fuel industry — approximately 8 jobs for every $1 million invested, in contrast to about 3 jobs in fossil fuels. The solar industry alone currently employs more people in electricity generation than gas, coal and oil combined. In coming decades, it’s predicted that trillions of dollars will be invested into clean energy worldwide.

This is downright inspiring, especially considering coal mining is extremely devastating for both the environment and people. Mountaintop removal — the method of choice for coal companies — destroys vast areas of the ecosystem, annihilating forests and filling waterways with toxic waste. The health impact of fossil fuel burning is estimated at $74.6 billion every year.

While the Trump administration and Congress push coal and gas to ‘bring back coal jobs’, renewable energy provides five times more jobs than coal mines. On top of that, solar and wind jobs, which total more that 300,000 in the US (as of 2016), are “a significant source of employment in many of the rural red states that supported Donald Trump’s campaign,” notes Bloomberg news.

“We’re hiring workers in the rust belt,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. “We’re helping families keep farms they’ve held for generations. The lifeblood of our industry is in rural America.” [source]

As Daniel Kammen, director of UC Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, points out: “If you can leave ideology behind, which I don’t think this administration seems able to do, we know these things create jobs.” He adds, “You would think these people will have some level of common sense, but the White House, sadly, is showing none.”

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About the author:

Carolanne Wright

I’m Carolanne — a writer, chef, traveler and enthusiastic advocate for sustainability, organics and joyful living. It’s good to have you here. If you would like to learn more, connect with me at or visit

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