President Joe Biden and John Kerry, his climate envoy, have said Biden’s recently signed climate change Executive Orders (EO) will create a larger number of better paying jobs in the field of green energy technologies, than the number of jobs that the Biden administration acknowledges will be lost in the fossil fuel industry.
Government data and experience indicate these claims are most likely false.
Biden’s Executive Orders Cost Jobs on Day One
On his first day in office, Biden signed an EO retroactively cancelling the federal permits needed for the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline. Days later Biden signed a second EO placing a moratorium on future oil and gas lease sales on federal lands, and despite saying his drilling ban only applied to future leases, the Department of Interior subsequently revoked 70 existing permits issued in the waning days of the Trump administration.
More than 1,000 workers were laid off the day after Biden cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline’s completion and the administration admits its policies will sideline tens of thousands of coal miners, and oil and gas workers.
When questioned about these job losses, Kerry said the coal, gas, and oil workers who Biden’s EOs are forcing out of their jobs will have “better choices,” and can “go to work to make the solar panels.”
The Washington Post gave Kerry’s statements “two Pinocchio’s,” a rating indicating even if Kerry was not outright lying, his statements represent “a great example of how some ‘facts’ can be misleading when taken out of context.”
Data Refutes Biden Job Claims
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks job gains and losses.
BLS estimates that by 2028, 10,400 new wind turbine technician and solar panel installer jobs will be created in total.
By comparison, Biden’s climate policies are expected to put more than 50,000 workers in the coal industry, and ten-of-thousands of more workers in the oil and gas industries, out of work. Thus, the policies will result in a large net loss of jobs.
BLS also records salary data for different categories of jobs, reporting wind and solar jobs don’t pay as well as jobs associated with fossil fuel production.
The median wage for coal miners in 2019 was $59,000 annually. This was $8,000 more than the average annual national private sector salary of $51,000. By comparison, BLS data show the median wage for solar installers in 2019 was approximately $45,000 ($6,000 below the national average), and the median wage for wind technicians was $53,000 annually.
The pay differential between solar and wind jobs and jobs in the oil and gas industry is even greater. The Department of Energy reports oil and gas industry jobs pay $112,000 per year on average—more than double the average salary of wind technician, 148 percent higher than solar installer’s make.
Electric Vehicle Jobs Claims Mostly False
Another EO issued by Biden directs federal agencies to purchase only electric vehicles going forward. Biden’s goal is to replace U.S. government’s fleet of roughly 650,000 vehicles with electric models, in the process incentivizing the increased production of electric vehicles by manufacturers and the increased sale of electric cars and trucks to the general public.
“Today is ‘Climate Day’ at the White House, which means that today is ‘Jobs Day’ at the White House,” said Biden upon signing a host of EO responding to climate change. “We’re going to harness the purchasing power of the federal government to buy clean, zero-emission vehicles that are made and sourced by union workers right here in America. … This will mean 1 million new jobs in the American automobile industry. One million.”
Examining Biden’s claims, the Associated Press (AP) concluded they relied on “fuzzy math,” saying Biden’s electric vehicle policies “probably will mean fewer net auto-making jobs.”
Industry experts pointed out to the AP that as U.S. automakers shift to make more electric vehicles, they will be making fewer gasoline powered cars and trucks. Rather than creating new jobs, workers will simply shift from assembling vehicles with internal combustion engine to cars and trucks with large battery packs.
Kristin Dziczek, a vice president at the Center for Automotive Research, explained to the AP because, “electric vehicles generally have 30 percent to 40 percent fewer parts and are simpler to build, fewer workers will be needed to assemble them.” In addition, it is easier to automate battery pack construction and installation meaning robotic machinery will replace many workers on the shop floor.
And the AP discovered the jobs “created” in response to Biden’s electric vehicle EO will likely pay less because “automakers pay workers who assemble batteries less than they pay those who manufacture vehicles.”
To sum up, Biden’s policies will create new jobs. However, the available evidence indicates, more jobs will be lost as a result of Biden’s EOs than will be gained. In addition, the workers in these new jobs will likely be paid less than workers were paid in the fossil fuel related jobs shut down by Biden’s policies.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.