Across the climate movement, we are constantly bumping into the false dichotomy of JOBS vs. Everything Else. Every piece of common sense can apparently be defeated with 4 dang letters — Human health? Jobs! Long term economy? Jobs! Destroying water resources for the eastern seaboard? Jobs! Air pollution causing tens of thousands of pre-mature deaths a year? Jobs!
Now, granted, I like jobs, but, remember this is a false dichotomy — as Judy Bonds says, “There are no jobs on a dead planet.” In December, the Coal River Wind Project produced an extensive study that showed that a wind farm would create more than a million (yes, million!) dollars more tax revenue each year in the county than a mountaintop removal site, and that it would take only 27 years for a wind farm to produce more job hours than a strip mine.
However, these are hypotheticals, the Coal River Wind Project remains in jeopardy. Now, we have proof that wind can beat coal in the jobs and economy argument. According to CNN Money.com: The wind industry now employs more people than coal mining in the United States.
Wind industry jobs jumped to 85,000 in 2008, a 70% increase from the previous year, according to a report released Tuesday from the American Wind Energy Association. In contrast, the coal industry employs about 81,000 workers. (Those figures are from a 2007 U.S. Department of Energy report but coal employment has remained steady in recent years though it’s down by nearly 50% since 1986.) Wind industry employment includes 13,000 manufacturing jobs concentrated in regions of the country hard hit by the deindustrialization of the past two decades.
The big spike in wind jobs was a result of a record-setting 50% increase in installed wind capacity, with 8,358 megawatts coming online in 2008 (enough to power some 2 million homes). That’s a third of the nation’s total 25,170 megawatts of wind power generation. Wind farms generating more than 4,000 megawatts of electricity were completed in the last three months of 2008 alone.
Another sign that wind power is no longer a niche green energy play: Wind accounted for 42% of all new electricity generation installed last year in the U.S.
This article doesn’t mention that coal mining jobs have been decreasing dramatically because of the mechanization of coal mining, which has resulted not only in fewer jobs, but also in the terrible stip mines in the Powder River Basin and Black Mesa, as well as mountaintop removal coal mining.