President Donald Trump, who recently traveled to Louisiana to talk about energy jobs, shouldn’t forget about one of the fastest-growing and most promising energy sectors in America right now: clean energy.
Last year, clean-energy jobs grew by nearly 4 percent and now employ nearly 3.3 million Americans. That’s more people than work in real estate, as school teachers or as waiters and waitresses in America. And it’s three times more Americans than work in fossil fuels.
As a lifelong resident of south Louisiana whose father worked in the oil industry for 30 years, I know as well as anyone oil and gas are a huge part of Louisiana’s economy. But now, so is clean energy. Nearly 3,500 Louisianians now work in the solar industry, according to the U.S. Energy Employment Report. That’s despite the state currently having some of the worst solar regulations in the country. Even more overlooked is the state’s energy-efficiency sector. More than 20,800 Louisiana residents now work in energy efficiency jobs — reducing wasted electricity in our homes, offices and schools; manufacturing and installing LED lighting and Energy-Star appliances, and working with high-efficiency air conditioning and heating systems that have become as essential to life in the deep South as sunscreen and ice water.
But the fact is, Louisiana and Trump could do so much more to advance clean energy — and in doing so, create a lot more jobs, reduce a lot of power bills and attract a lot of new opportunities and investments to our state.
For starters, there’s wind energy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the second fastest-growing job in America in the next decade will be wind turbine technicians. (The only job growing faster? Solar installer). Louisiana knows how to do offshore energy better than any place in the country. So instead of simply tightening the ties that bind us to the oil and gas industry and the pollution, ecological risks and danger that come with it, why don’t Trump and Louisiana lawmakers work to create new workforce opportunities for our young people, beginning with wind energy? Remember: when an offshore oil rig goes down, you have Deepwater Horizon. When an offshore wind turbine goes down, you have a splash.
The days of clean energy being too expensive are nearing the end, and so is the need to look toward states such as California or Colorado to find proof of that. Louisiana need only look to other Southern states to find leaders in clean energy and energy efficiency. For example, southern rural electric cooperatives in states such as Arkansas, North Carolina, and Georgia are leading the way with citizen-focused policies to help homes become more energy-efficient while creating jobs that can’t be exported to a foreign country. These electric coops are also providing community solar to their members, something our Louisiana electric cooperatives have yet to adopt.
Yes, even pockets all throughout the South are finding that clean energy creates jobs. As a lifelong Louisiana resident, I promote a cleaner future with greener jobs. I hope you do, too.
small business owner