CNBC reprinted a story from Oilprice.com about the politics that have pitted the growth potential of the renewable energy industry against a revival of domestic gas and oil production.
“The mainstream media has a knee-jerk tendency to view energy jobs from a polarized perspective, focusing singularly on either job creation potential in the renewable energy sector or in the fossil fuels sector. This issue needs to be reframed for public consumption, with the understanding that it is the drive for energy independence that is paramount to new job creation in both sectors.”
President Obama’s campaign focuses on the job creation potential of the clean energy industry, and not without justification.
There is considerable reason to believe that the renewable energy industry will continue to experience a period of explosive growth: according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), off-grid electricity alone will create 4 million jobs worldwide over the next 2 decades.
More specifically to the United States, the American solar industry is booming and generating domestic employment at an unprecedented rate. The National Solar Jobs Census in 2011 reported that employment growth in the solar industry was 10 times above the national average that year.
Conservative estimates report that 100,000 Americans are employed in the solar sector; that number is expected to increase 24 percent this year.
But the fossil fuel industry has had its share of job growth, thanks in part to the “shale revolution” that has brought huge increases in the domestic production of oil and natural gas. Shale gas development alone accounted for 600,000 jobs in 2010. Thousands more jobs are anticipated over the next decade in the fossil fuel industry.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s energy policy focuses on more oil drilling and decreased clean-air regulations. He is opposed to government support for wind and solar energy projects in the U.S., a point he is becoming more vocal about as his campaign gains momentum. In March, Romney said in an interview, “In place of real energy, Obama has focused on an imaginary world where government-subsidized windmills and solar panels could power the economy.”
Oilprice.com concludes that the country would be better off focusing on combining the efforts of renewable energy and domestic fossil fuel production instead of taking an “either/or” position. The 2012 presidential campaigns have polarized public opinion when it comes to the future of American energy, but this isn’t the best approach:
At a time when America’s energy reality is in a state of metamorphosis, both renewable energy and increased efforts towards domestic production of oil and gas are important. While renewable energy will in the long term become the dominant sector, this transformation must necessarily be a gradual one.