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By John Rogers

A new tool from The Solar Foundation breaks down the latest solar jobs numbers by state, metropolitan area, county and congressional district, and looks at who makes up the solar industry. Here's a taste of what those numbers say, and why they matter.

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Closed coal mine in Boone County, West Virginia. WVPB/ Janet Kunicki

It was supposed to be all about jobs. When the president announced his intent to abandon the Clean Power Plan this spring and then withdraw from the Paris agreement this summer, one of the biggest reasons cited was to protect the coal jobs sustaining communities in places like Appalachia.

There's just one problem. Whatever the White House says, coal jobs are in a terminal decline and whatever cynics claim, it's not some cabal of heartless environmentalists to blame. It's the power industry itself, driven by advances in technology and simple market forces.

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Is this what Donald Trump meant when he campaigned on being the "greatest jobs president that God ever created"?

The president celebrated the 70 whole jobs created by the Acosta mine in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, the nation's newest coal mine.

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By Ryan Schleeter

Still think the Keystone XL pipeline will create tens of thousands of permanent jobs? Think again.

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By Joel Jaeger

The solar, wind and energy efficiency industries already employ millions of people in the U.S. and they're poised to grow.

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Despite President Trump's promise last week at a Kentucky rally that "a lot of coal miners are going back to work" as a result of his executive order, most experts, analysts and even coal industry executives caution that the administration's moves to roll back the Clean Power Plan may do little to help bring back jobs.

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By Andy Rowell

Earlier this month when Donald Trump cancelled legislation that required oil and gas companies to disclose taxes and other payments to foreign governments, the president said he was "bringing back jobs big-league."

Once again though, the truth is somewhat different. Big Oil's jobs may never be back in the numbers that Trump dreams of.

Since the oil price collapsed, some 440,000 oil industry jobs worldwide have been lost. Of those, the oil industry consultants, Graves, estimates that 40 percent have been in the U.S.; 28 percent in the UK and 10 percent in Canada. Some 100,000 oil jobs were lost in the capital of the oil industry itself, Texas.

According to Bloomberg, somewhere between one-third to one-half of those jobs may never come back. No matter how many alternative facts Trump tries to spin.

For example, some of the world's largest oil services companies—Schlumberger, Haliburton and Baker Hughes—spent more than $3 billion laying workers off in just two years. As OilPrice.com noted "now with prices and business on the mend, none of the services firms seem eager to repeat their mistakes by taking on too many people."

Furthermore, costs have plummeted as the industry has found ways to produce more oil for less. The downturn has forced the industry to look at ways of cutting costs and chief amongst those are labor costs as computerization, automatic and even artificial intelligence takes over manual work. Oilprice.com quotes UBS which estimates that "the U.S. oil industry will only need about half as many workers to suck the same amount of oil out of the ground post-2017 versus pre-2015."

In the Permian Basin, three years ago the industry needed $60 a barrel to break even, now it is $35, well below the current price of about $53. Pioneer Natural Resources, operating in West Texas has added 240 new wells, without one taking on one single new worker.

Even Oilprice.com, which labels itself as the number one website for oil and energy news, admits the "forgotten truth that lies at the heart of the natural resources curse—while oil, natural gas and other resources offer enormous opportunities for wealth and a lot of output for an economy, they actually create relatively few jobs."

A very few of the Big Oil barons may get rich, but the industry itself does not generate many jobs, contrary to anything Trump wants you to believe.

And now the New York Times has explored the theme of evaporating oil and gas jobs in the increasing age of automation:

"As in other industries, automation is creating a new demand for high-tech workers—sometimes hundreds of miles away in a control center—but their numbers don't offset the ranks of field hands no longer required to sling chains and lift iron."

The paper interviews one such worker Eustasio Velazquez who has worked in the industry for more than 10 years, but has recently been laid off again. "I don't see a future. Pretty soon every rig will have one worker and a robot," he said.

Michael Dynan, vice president for portfolio and strategic development at Schramm, a Pennsylvania manufacturer of drilling rigs, told the New York Times: "People have left the industry and they are not coming back. If it's a repetitive task, it can be automated and I don't need someone to do that. I can get a computer to do that."

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Photo credit: Walmart / Flickr

U.S. solar employs more workers than any other energy industry, including coal, oil and natural gas combined, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's second annual U.S. Energy and Employment Report.

6.4 million Americans now work in the traditional energy and the energy efficiency sector, which added more than 300,000 net new jobs in 2016, or 14 percent of the nation's job growth.

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Natural Resources Defense Council

A century after the seeds for the development of the incandescent bulb were planted in Ohio and GE began operations in Nela Park, a new report shines a spotlight on the state’s burgeoning advanced lighting industry that is leading global energy efficiency innovations. With more than 4 billion screw-based bulbs being transitioned to new technologies in the United States alone, Ohio’s economy stands to gain significantly from the companies leading the change. The state already boasts 1500 manufacturing jobs from the industry with potential for many more to come. The new report Better Bulbs, Better Jobs, released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council, highlights the potential with case studies of large and small job producers across the state.

“If you weren’t watching, it might be a surprise to learn that Ohio is a world leader in developing energy efficient lighting,” said Dylan Sullivan, staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council and a co-author of the report. “There is huge potential for this industry, but we need to retain Ohio’s smart policies to secure future growth. Rolling back the policies that strengthen the market for these innovative products means rolling back jobs just starting to come online all over the state.”

The report outlines federal and state policies that are helping to create a market for advanced lighting technologies and includes seven case studies of Ohio companies driving the industry. TCP Lighting in Aurora (near Cleveland) has been central to the development of CFL bulbs, and is now poised to open a manufacturing facility in Ohio. Cincinnati’s LSI LED created the fixtures used to light New York’s landmark George Washington Bridge. Smaller companies like J&M Electrical Supply and J’s Lighting Services, both in Cambridge, are helping manufacturing businesses reduce costs and stay in Ohio by making the transition to more efficient lighting.

In Ohio, the state’s existing energy efficiency standard has been hugely impactful. The technologies put in place in 2009 and 2010 as a result of the efficiency standards will save customers over $350 million over their lifetime. And the transition to advanced lighting offers huge benefits outside of Ohio too. The nationwide transition to more efficient lighting means:

• Electric bill savings of more than $12.5 billion per year
• Energy savings equivalent to 30 large power plants
• Reduced pollution, including a 60 percent reduction in mercury emissions from power plants and prevention of approximately 100 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution per year

For more information and to read the full report, click here.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org.

BlueGreen Alliance

The Ohio BlueGreen Apollo Alliance today released a report that provides a roadmap to create thousands of jobs in Ohio, ensuring the state remains competitive in the global marketplace as America’s Energy Gateway. Existing factors identified in a new report, The Ohio Green Manufacturing Action Plan (GreenMAP), such as Ohio’s 630,000 skilled workers and strong manufacturing infrastructure, make it one of the best states in the nation for clean energy manufacturers to make new investments.

“Successful renewable energy programs and energy efficiency projects over the past few years have proven that there is significant potential for Ohio to meet the growing demands of the clean energy sector,” said Shanelle Smith, Ohio senior coordinator for the BlueGreen Alliance. “This report affirms it and proves that Ohio can’t afford to stand on the sidelines while other states and countries compete to win good jobs in one of the world’s fastest growing industries.”

Although Ohio has already taken steps to spur clean energy investments, the report identifies a menu of options where further incentives are necessary in order to continue growth. Those recommendations include: expanded financing and incentive support, prioritizing support for small- to mid-size clean energy manufacturers, expanding support for research and development, expanding workforce development programs to train employees for these new industries, expanding Ohio’s demand-side clean energy policies and pushing for improvements in clean energy manufacturing policy at the federal and regional levels.

“As Ohio continues to develop new clean energy sources like wind towers, the Ohio GreenMAP will help us create jobs, becoming a leading supplier and net exporter of those systems as well,” said Wendy Patton, senior project director at Policy Matters Ohio.

Nationally, clean energy job creation has shown to be more resilient than job creation in other sectors of the economy, especially during a recession. While other sectors of the economy have shed jobs over the past few years, the number of jobs created in renewable energy has increased.

“Clean energy manufacturing represents a major family-supporting job creation engine in Ohio, we have the empty factories and skilled workforce to capitalize on this opportunity, now is the time to use the GreenMAP to help put Ohioans back to work in good jobs making the things that America need most,” said Harriet Applegate, executive secretary of the North Shore Federation of Labor.

Outside of Ohio, the number of clean energy investments is accelerating. Global investment in green energy passed $1 trillion thanks to a record investment of $260 billion this year.

“Ohio can’t afford to wait while other states and nations retool to manufacture the clean energy technologies in high demand worldwide. This plan provides us with
a framework that will spur private investment and create clean energy manufacturing jobs in the state,” said Kimberly Gibson, director of the EWI Energy Center.

A significant number of Ohioans already work in the clean economy. Between 2003 and 2010, Ohio added 16,793 clean jobs, growing this sector of the economy by 2.5 percent annually. Clean energy jobs pay better than the average job in Ohio—paying $39,275 on average, which is over $3,500 more annually.

“Manufacturing for the clean energy sector in Ohio will not only put the unemployed back to work but will also reduce pollution and localize our energy sources, making us healthier and less dependent on foreign oil,” said Ashley Craig, senior environmental business specialist at the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

For more information, click here or click here to read and download the GreenMAP report.

Pew Charitable Trusts

As energy is expected to play prominently in the State of the Union address, the Pew Clean Energy Program and more than 200 businesses and trade groups are touting the economic benefits of increasing industrial efficiency in a full-page advertisement Tuesday, Jan. 24, in the Hill, Politico, and Roll Call. Signers include Caterpillar, DuPont, Dow Chemical Co., Siemens Corp., American Biomass Corp., American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, Master Stainless Steel, Los Angeles Business Council, Texas Combined Heat and Power Initiative, and the U.S. Clean Heat and Power Association. The ad reads:

“Each year, America’s utilities and factories send enough heat up their chimneys to power all of Japan. But with existing, proven technologies, we can harness that wasted energy, dramatically cut electricity costs, and make our manufacturers more competitive.

“According to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, significantly increasing our industrial energy efficiency would spur more than $200 billion in new private investment in the U.S. and create up to 1,000,000 jobs. Harness the heat to create new jobs and make our country more competitive.”

To see the full size ad, click here.

Many manufacturers, hotels, campuses, and utilities across the country already recycle their waste heat—a process known as cogeneration, or combined heat and power (CHP). But much more can be done. The Oak Ridge lab estimates that the U.S. has the potential to double industrial energy efficiency, providing impressive economic benefits. Rising energy prices affect companies large and small. Using wasted heat and recycling energy can dramatically reduce costs and give businesses the flexibility to invest those savings elsewhere. Click here for more information.

Three bipartisan bills in the U.S. House deal with industrial energy efficiency, and a bill authored by Rep. Charles F. Bass (R-NH), which seeks to double CHP, has been drafted. A Senate bill authored by Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) on efficiency includes a CHP provision. Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) are expected to submit a bill soon that also will address industrial efficiency.

And Capitol Hill will soon have its own CHP project. The Capitol Power Plant is developing a design for producing 18 MW of electricity through improved energy-efficiency processes to heat congressional buildings. The improvements will help Congress reduce energy use by up to 30 percent.

Although installation requires an initial investment, companies recoup their costs and start to see savings within a few years. For example:

  • The Penn England Farm employs CHP to produce electricity for its dairy operations.
  • The Cox Interior Inc. manufacturing plant in Campbellsville, Ky., operates a 5-MW system that saves the company $4.5 million a year. It also produces more electricity than the company needs, so Cox Interior sells about $50,000 worth of power back to the local utility.
  • The Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico, Nevada, installed a 1-MW system that will save the company $400,000 a year and pay for itself within five years of operation.
  • Lorin Industries in Michigan has recycled its wasted heat since 1943 and expanded capacity in 1990. The system saves the company $540,000 a year, and the newest addition paid for itself in just four years—largely due to the significant decrease in the company’s need to purchase more costly peak electricity.

For more information, click here.