Fossil Fuels Will Not Help The Working Class. Renewables Might.

Gurit Composites/CC BY-ND 2.0

Having posted about Obama's false choice between political dominance and pleasing his green base, I got into a spat on twitter with someone who insisted that fracking was our only path for helping "struggling Americans" and avoiding economic calamity.

Ignoring the fact that climate instability will have a ruinous impact on our economy and is already leaving Americans struggling, we must once-and-for-all dispense with the notion that fossil fuels are the job creator of choice for economic growth.

We've already seen reports that show the UK economy faring better with a wind-powered future than a gas-powered one, and the growth of the global environmental sector is one of the few economic success stories of the last few years.

So a story from renewable energy pioneers Ecotricity caught my eye yesterday, revealing how a relatively modest scheme is providing apprenticeships and training for the clean energy jobs of the future. Working with Humberside Engineering Training Association, Ecotricity is providing real-world job experience for youth in one of the UK's most economically depressed areas:

12,000 people currently work in the UK’s wind energy industry, but the number of jobs in the sector is set to increase to nearly 90,000 by 20201 – an opportunity not lost on HETA who teamed up with Ecotricity in 2009 to provide them with specialised wind turbine technicians.

HETA apprentices Adam Barnard (22) and Callum Evers (20) from Grimsby, Joe Parkinson (22) from Immingham, and Jacob Lofthouse (21) from Hull are all now based at Ecotricity’s Louth technician centre – the quartet are part of an eight strong team who maintain and improve Ecotricity’s 53 wind turbines across the UK, from Scotland down to the Cotswolds.

Sure, four apprenticeships is hardly a huge news story. But the point here is not the number of positions, but the type of positions. If I had a dime for every time someone has framed the transition to a low carbon future as "elitist", and the push for more fossil fuels as "defending the working class", I could probably afford to create some high-paying blue collar jobs in a start up all my own.

Don't get me wrong, there are legitimate questions about whether we can ever sustain the kind of economic growth and consumer spending we've seen in the past few decades. But then again, there are also legitimate questions of whether we'd want to.

Either way, renewables are becoming a massive employer. Small farms create jobs. And local currency schemes can pay real salaries (for real mayors).

Best of all, they don't undermine the climate we rely on for economic (and actual) survival in the process.

Tags: Activism | Ecological Economics | Economics | Renewable Energy | United Kingdom

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