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?”