On Fox News Sunday with Mike Wallace June 4, former Vice President Al Gore said solar energy has created jobs 17 times faster than the U.S. economy as a whole. He also pointed out that solar now employs more people than coal.
He saw those both as reasons to celebrate. The truth is the opposite.
Because solar jobs are a tragic waste of human labor.
Gore’s right that solar employs more than coal now—roughly twice as many. At the end of 2016, solar employed about 374,000, while coal employed about 160,000.
But in 2016, coal produced 15 percent of all energy consumed in the U.S., and solar only 0.06 percent. That means coal produces 5,000 times as much energy per job as solar.
As the graphic from the EIA shows, solar provides 6 percent of renewable energy’s 10 percent of total energy; 0.1 * 0.06 = 0.006. Coal provides 15 percent not of renewable’s 10 percent of total energy but 15 percent of total energy; 15/0.006=2,500. But it takes twice as many workers for solar to provide that 0.006 percent of total energy, so the productivity of coal per job is 2,500 x 2 = 5,000 times the productivity per job.