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?”

Stay Engaged

Simply enter your email below to receive our weekly email:


Detroit Prep is a top-rated and economically and racially diverse charter school in the city. It's growth means it needs to move out from a church basement and into a new location. Nearby is a former Detroit Public Schools building, sitting empty for years. But, worried about competition, the public school district refused to sell. For years, district and local government officials in Detroit had worked to block public charter schools. They pushed legislation at the Michigan Capitol to hinder them, refused to sell to them, transferred surplus buildings from the district to the city government and imposed deed restrictions on property sales to private developers. All of it was aimed to hinder or even prevent charter school choice outside the confines of the Detroit school district.

Related Sites