Solutions Summit | August 2022

Michael D. Pulliam


On 28 June 2022, the US Department of Energy released an annual report showing jobs in the fossil fuel industry had yet another year of decline, while employment in renewable energy sectors (especially electric vehicle-related fields) increased dramatically.

The annual US Energy and Employment Report (USEER) compiles public information about labor in nearly every established energy sector: energy efficiency, electric power generation, motor vehicles, and the production, transmission, and storage of fuels, to name a few. This latest report analyzed how American energy workforces fared in 2021.

Overall, jobs in the energy sector increased from the year before, though electric and hybrid vehicle jobs grew in leaps and bounds. Electric vehicle-related jobs grew 26 percent in 2021, compared to 8 percent growth in 2020. Hybrid vehicle-related jobs grew 20 percent. Fossil fuel work continued a downward trend from 2020 through 2021. Jobs related to the extraction and manufacturing of coal and petroleum fuels fell by roughly 12 percent (coal) and 8 percent (petroleum).

The 2022 USEER also included a demographics breakdown to consider who exactly is working in the energy sector. Women comprised roughly a quarter of the energy workforce, compared to 47 percent of the nation’s overall workforce. Most industries had lower-than-average percentages of Black and Latine workers; the report stated, “There are no technologies where Black workers are represented proportionally to their overall representation in the U.S. workforce.” One progressive organization, Jobs to Move America, voiced concern about clean energy having patchy levels of diversity, “especially for people of color and women…. However, we are encouraged by the strong initiatives that the DOE has been taking to encourage companies to commit to good jobs and racial equity in U.S. clean energy infrastructure.” 

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm stressed that more than a third of energy sector job growth last year was in “net-zero aligned areas,” such as energy efficiency and storage or clean energy production. “The jobs are growing in industries we need to support a 100 percent clean power sector,” Granholm said. “That is a key takeaway from this report.”

“The President has set forth a goal of getting to net zero by 2050,” Granholm continued. “So there is a period of transition here. And it’s ‘net,’ so no one is suggesting that fossil fuel jobs, that the fossil fuel industry, is going to be completely eliminated even as the globe is transitioning to clean energy. We need to have supply meet demand… and it doesn’t at this moment, so we want to see an increase in supply. But ultimately, most project there will be a demand curve that comes down. And this transition will happen.”

Source: E&E News


On 30 June 2022, CA Governor Newsom signed into law a landmark Senate Bill (SB54) geared toward reducing plastic waste across California and the Pacific Ocean.

Scientists estimate nearly 11 million tons of plastic waste enters the ocean each year. Ocean Conservancy, a national organization for environmental protection and education, compiled information from 35 years of coastal cleanup missions and found that the majority of litter on American beaches and waterways is single-use plastic packaging and foodware.

SB54, known as the Plastic Pollution Producer Responsibility Act, creates new legal requirements addressing this problem: California businesses must make a 25% reduction in single-use plastic packaging and foodware by weight and item count by 2032; nearly half of this reduction must result from directly eliminating plastic packaging or switching single-use materials for reusable or refillable items (Ocean Conservancy scientists estimate that over ten years, this alone could prevent 23 million tons of plastic waste – that’s more weight than 25 Golden Gate Bridges); all single-use packaging and foodware (even if it’s not plastic) must be recyclable or compostable within California by 2032, and the state must meet a 65% recycling rate for plastics by then; and hundreds of millions of dollars in funding will go to support communities and ecosystems most impacted by plastic pollution.

“It’s hard to capture how momentous this feels,” said Dr. Anja Brandon, U.S. Plastics Policy Analyst at Ocean Conservancy and a principal contributor to the bill text. “The United States is the number-one generator of plastic waste in the world and a top contributor to the ocean plastics crisis. We can’t solve this problem without U.S. leadership, and by passing this law, California is righting the ship. This is a huge win for our ocean.”

“A few years ago legislation of this magnitude was unimaginable in the U.S.,” said Jeff Watters, Vice President of External Affairs at Ocean Conservancy. “We are here today because of an incredible amount of hard work, perseverance, and ambition from Senator Ben Allen, Assemblymember Luz Rivas, their tireless staff, and the team of experts at CalRecycle. This is what strong, forward-thinking political leadership looks like.”

SB54 passed the CA state Assembly with a vote of 67-to-2 and the state Senate with a vote of 29-to-0. Ocean Conservancy has been negotiating the language of this bill with fellow environmental advocates for months to make it the single strongest plastics legislation ever seen in the United States.

Source: Ocean Conservancy Press Release