If US Relied on Solar, Not Coal, 12 Million Workers Would Need to Be Repurposed

Solar produces few watts per worker; with low unemployment who will generate the juice?

The New York Times recently lauded the solar power industry by pointing out that there were more solar jobs than coal jobs in this country.

One of its recent headlines read: “Today’s energy jobs are in solar, not coal.”

Only many paragraphs down did the story get specific about what taxpayers are getting in return for extensive government subsidization of the solar energy industry.

In 2016, the solar energy industry provided 373,807 jobs and generated 0.9 percent of the energy used in the country, according to a U.S. Department of Energy report.

In 2016, the coal industry provided 160,119 jobs and 30.4 percent of the energy used by Americans.

This means that if solar energy were to replace coal at the same ratio of jobs to output, it would need to employ 12.6 million people to produce the same amount of power that 160,119 coal industry workers produce.

To put that in perspective, the entire retail sales industry, including furniture, electronics, clothes, gas, food and beverages, currently employs 15.9 million people, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A famous economist visiting a public works project in a developing country in the 1960s is said to have asked his guide why the workers were using shovels instead of bulldozers. When it was explained that mechanization would mean higher unemployment, he responded, “Oh, it’s a jobs program. In that case, why not give them spoons instead of shovels?”

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A “bottlenecker” is someone who uses the power of the government to limit competition in the market and artificially boost their own profits. Bottleneckers use a variety of methods to achieve their goals, including tax loopholes, regulations, occupational licensing requirements, minimum wage laws and many more. The end result when these special interest bottleneckers succeed is fewer choices and higher prices for consumers, fewer job opportunities for workers and less innovation throughout the economy.

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