Skip to main content

Common Dreams. Journalism funded by people, not corporations.

There has never been—and never will be—an advertisement on our site except for this one: without readers like you supporting our work, we wouldn't exist.

No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news and opinion 365 days a year that is freely available to all and funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

Our mission is clear. Our model is simple. If you can, please support our Fall Campaign today.

Support Our Work -- No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. Please support our Fall Campaign today.

Wind turbines of the Block Island Wind Farm tower over the water on October 14, 2016 off the shores of Block Island, Rhode Island.

Wind turbines of the Block Island Wind Farm tower over the water on October 14, 2016 off the shores of Block Island, Rhode Island. (Photo: Don Emmert/AFP via Getty Images)

Greening Earth and Creating Jobs, Biden to Slash Fossil Fuel Subsidies and Extend Wind, Solar Credits

Together, wind and solar account for 40 percent of electricity sector jobs in the United States.

Juan Cole

 by Informed Comment

Reuters reports that President Biden intends to slash tax subsidies for fossil fuels like coal and petroleum and to use taxes instead to encourage renewable energy. Since jobs in the coal industry are plummeting, and since job growth in renewable electricity is over 3 percent a year, Biden’s plans will actually increase employment.

Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen explained that cutting fossil fuel subsidies would realize a revenue for the government of $35 billion over ten years. The exact subsidies to be cut were not identified, but an important one would be the provision that allows oil companies to write off the cost of new drilling. Keep it in the ground!

Reuters explains that Biden’s plan will instead extend tax credits to wind, solar and battery storage all through the 2020s, and will also incentivize the building of new high capacity electricity transmission wires. It will also push airlines to develop and use more sustainable fuel. Air travel produces about 2.5 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

So, why can we tie these changes in taxes and subsidies to jobs? Because Biden is backing the winners.

The 2020 US Energy and Employment Report shows that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders are on to something with the Green New Deal, and that President Biden’s adoption of elements of it is a promising step for the US economy.

As Karin Kirk at Yale Climate Connections points out in her canny survey of the implications of the report, politicians are all about jobs.

The figures are through the end of 2019, before the distortions of the Covid year of 2020.

There were nearly a quarter million jobs in the solar sector of electricity production, up by nearly 6,000 jobs, almost 3 percent, since the previous year. This 248,000 solar jobs demonstrates the dynamism of this energy sector. They amount to 27.8 percent of all the 896,800 electricity sector jobs in the United States, over a fourth.

Solar accounted for twice as many jobs as natural gas, which surprised even me. And whereas it added 6,000 jobs in a year, coal lost 7,000. We can see the future.

Wind energy companies employed 114,800 workers, nearly as many as did natural gas, and the sector grew by 3.2 percent year over year.

Together, wind and solar account for 40 percent of electricity sector jobs in the United States.

These two sectors saw a job growth total of over 10,900 new hires that year, more than for natural gas.

Some 2.4 million Americans worked in the fields of the transmission, distribution and storage of electricity. Since President Biden wants to build out a high capacity grid, that sector is likely to grow. It was relatively stagnant in 2019.

Then there is the necessary greening of transportation. The production of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids employed 242,700 workers. Unfortunately, this sector showed a slight downturn in jobs year over year. President Biden wants to turn that around.

Kirk points out that many states are leaving jobs on the table by not developing renewable energy even when they have the capacity. I’d add that much of the South has enormous solar potential but that Republican politicians, often funded by Big Oil, often put in punitive fees to discourage it.

Some of the states in the Great Wind corridor are also seeing moves in state legislatures to favor fossil fuels and punish wind. (I’m looking at you, Wyoming). It may be that federal policy can help get the ball rolling in some of these states, where ordinary people will suffer a polluted environment, sea level rise, superstorms, and other ill effects of fossil fuel-powered climate change and pay more than they should for the electricity to boot.


© 2021 Juan Cole
Juan Cole

Juan Cole

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His newest book, "Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires" was published in 2020. He is also the author of  "The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East" (2015) and "Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East" (2008).  He has appeared widely on television, radio, and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. 

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Watch: Bernie Sanders Argues 'We Must End the Greed of Big Pharma'

The live address comes as the Senate Budget Committee chair continues to push for including Medicare expansion and drug pricing reforms in the Build Back Better package.

Common Dreams staff ·


Reconciliation Framework 'Not Enough' to Push Through Infrastructure Bill, Progressives Warn

"We need to have a vote ready for the Build Back Better plan, not a framework," insisted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. "We want to have both of these votes together."

Brett Wilkins ·


McDonald's Workers Join 'Striketober' and Walk Out Over Sexual Harassment

One striker participated because "McDonald's still refuses to take responsibility for the countless women and teenagers who face harassment on the job at its stores across the globe."

Jessica Corbett ·


Breaking: FDA Panel Recommends Pfizer Covid-19 Vaccine for Kids 5 to 11

With just one abstention, the advisory panel voted 17-0 to approve the vaccine for younger children which scientific review has deemed both safe and effective against the deadly virus.

Common Dreams staff ·


Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo