Solar’s High Cost Jobs

Solar jobs are growing rapidly, but is that a good thing? Not if you agree with renowned economist Milton Friedman that the
smallest number of people should create the greatest amount of output.

Read Transcript

Did you know the solar power industry in the United States creates more employment than coal and wind power combined… and nearly as many jobs as natural gas! There are a lot of people who think that’s a good thing. But those people are not considering that jobs are a cost of production…a cost that is passed onto you the consumer.

Employment in the solar industry grew by 25% in 2016 alone, a statistic that got the New York Times awful excited. The Times published an article with the headline “Today’s Energy Jobs Are in Solar, Not Coal.” But…as is typical of the Times and many other publications, their glowing analysis of their favored energy technology was short, shallow and based on a faulty premise. In this case their premise was that a growing job market is always a good thing. Except… it’s not …when those jobs are wasteful, inefficient and expensive.

Let’s take a look at the numbers the Times was so excited about. According to the Department of Energy, in 2016 almost 374,000 people were employed in the solar power sector. That compares to nearly 400,000 natural gas workers, roughly 160,000 in coal generated power and 101,000 in wind. If the explosive growth in solar power continues, in 2017 there be more people generating electricity from solar than from another other source.

The New York Times flawed premise suggests this is good news for the growing solar sector and bad news for coal and natural gas. In truth, it’s bad news for anyone who uses electricity, so all of us.

As the legendary economist Milton Friedman made clear, the best economic objective is to have the fewest people possible generating the greatest amount of output. And that’s where the Times analysis went off the rails.

Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute looked at the same data and came up with a much more accurate conclusion. Lots of jobs producing small amounts of output is actually bad for the economy.

Perry calculated how many workers it takes to produce a given amount of electricity and which sectors receive the most generous taxpayer handouts. In 2016 coal generated about one and a quarter billion megawatt hours of electricity. Natural gas produced slightly more, but solar generated only a paltry 36.7 million megawatt hours.

So… when we match the electricity generated to the number of workers required to produce that power… the picture painted by the New York Times looks a lot different.

Coal generates 7,745 megawatt hours of electricity per worker. Natural gas requires about two workers to produce the same amount of power. But solar doesn’t perform at anywhere near the same level. It takes a whopping 79 workers to produce the same amount of electricity as that created by just one coal or two natural gas employees.

As Perry points out… it’s a common mistake of politicians and the media to treat jobs as an economic benefit, when in fact, jobs are an economic cost in the price of production.

This begs the question. If solar power is so uneconomic that it requires vastly more workers than coal and natural gas, how is it that the solar sector is growing so fast? Well, that’s where your state, local and national governments come in. According to the Energy Information Administration… government policies have subsidized the solar industry nearly 350 times more than carbon resources per unit of electricity produced.

And what I mean by subsidized is… your money… taxpayer dollars. We are all paying more for our electricity…paying for tens of thousands of unnecessary solar power jobs…because government leaders think it’s a good idea.
Do you?

Power on, America.

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  • Each year the U.S. Energy Department prepares a report on employment in the energy sector. For jobs numbers used in this video see pages 29 and 37.
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  • New York Times story from April 25,2017 on today’s energy jobs being in solar and not coal. The entire premise of the story was wrong, as is highlighted by Mark Perry in the source link after this one.
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  • Mark Perry’s analysis of the job market for coal, natural gas and solar workers as compared to electric power output.
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