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by Phil Stott | June 01, 2017


Factories silhouetted in dusk

Job creation is one of the key reasons cited by President Trump for pulling out of the Paris Agreement.

Specifically, coal jobs:

"The current agreement effectively blocks the development of clean coal in America," the President said in his remarks announcing the decision.

"China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So, we can't build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement. India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020. Think of it. India can double their coal production. We're supposed to get rid of ours. Even Europe is allowed to continue construction of coal plants.

"In short, the agreement doesn't eliminate coal jobs. It just transfers those jobs out of America and the United States, and ships them to foreign countries. This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States."

Now, there may be some perfectly good economic reasons for pulling out of the agreement (I've yet to see one, but I'm prepared to concede that there's a possibility), but creating coal jobs isn't one of them. These two charts explain why:

 Coal jobs

 Source: The Washington Post

Renewable energy jobs

Source: Inside Climate News

As you can see, there are approximately 10 times as many jobs in renewable energy in the United States as there are in coal. Even if pulling out of the Paris Accord doubles the number of coal jobs in the country, we'll be looking at an industry with around half as many employees as General Electric, and one with around a sixth of the headcount of the renewables sector. For further scale, consider that the US economy needs to create around 120,000 jobs per month--around 1.5 times as many as the entire coal sector currently employs--just to keep up with population growth.

Whatever else the decision may be about, raw numbers of jobs in energy production is nothing like a sufficient rationale—especially well-paying jobs where employees can develop transferable skills that will protect them in the event of a downturn. Neither is the idea of protecting US companies from overseas competitors: renewables are going to assume ever-greater importance in the years ahead. Ceding the development of those to overseas competitors is a much greater threat to existing American energy jobs than anything in the Paris agreement.