(from the Oregon Department of Transportation on Flickr)
As the money from the single largest climate bill the US has ever passed begins to filter into the economy, there’s a very interesting split happening in where the biggest investments are making an initial impact and the climate rhetoric of those places’ elected officials. From Politico in January:
They didn’t vote for it, they don’t like it and they’re working to undermine it — but Republicans are reaping the benefits of Democrats’ climate law. In the five months since the Inflation Reduction Act became law, companies have announced tens of billions of dollars in renewable energy, battery and electric vehicle projects that will benefit from incentives in President Joe Biden’s signature law, aimed at expanding domestic manufacturing in clean energy and reducing dependence on Chinese imports.
In fact, roughly two-thirds of the major projects are in districts whose Republican lawmakers opposed the Inflation Reduction Act, according to a POLITICO analysis of major green energy manufacturing announcements made since the bill’s enactment.
This kind of story keeps popping up, whether it’s Georgia’s governor arguing state policies are really responsible for the state’s EV boom, or more pointedly, Texas’ solar and battery usage ramping up as the legislature pushes to attack banks, investment firms and insurers that even look at environmentally-specific investments.
The Biden administration has ruefully pointed at some of the most egregious examples of this, but one survey found most Americans don’t know about the law, and many more don’t actually know what it does (Spare a thought for the very tired energy and climate journalists).
So is this political split really a thing when it comes to adding climate-friendly energy jobs? It’s too soon to tell actual trends from the IRA, but an annual report on what and where energy jobs are in the US can tell us what direction they were heading in before that IRA money really starts taking hold.
A caveat: This report is from the Department of Energy, so it’s about energy-specific jobs. There are plenty of climate-related jobs that have nothing to do with the energy sector. But because so much of the IRA is related to the energy sector, it’s a good place to start.
First some of the headline numbers from this report:
The Politico story features the impact of a few big investments, but climate-related energy jobs are broader than that. By sheer numbers, California (more than a half-million people!), Texas and New York had the highest numbers of “clean” energy jobs in 2022.
But these states are heavily populated and have at least one well-established renewable industry. Every state had more clean energy jobs in 2022 than they did in 2021, but the highest overall growth - excluding the big three — were Massachusetts, Ohio and Michigan, and the highest percentage growth were in New Mexico, Kentucky and Oklahoma. (NB: for you data nerds who are looking at the full report, I’m using the figures that do not account for traditional transmission and distribution, because the relative "cleanness" of those jobs state-by-state are all over the place).
Where is the growth in these states coming from? In Massachusetts, last year saw increases in electric power generation (anything from solar or wind construction to utility careers) and energy efficiency (mostly has to do with buildings and how they use energy). In Ohio and Michigan, motor vehicle jobs continued to rise, as well as energy efficiency.
In New Mexico, electric power generation contributed to it’s relatively fast growth, but, in sheer numbers, the fuel industry added far more jobs in the state overall in 2022 (like almost 10 times as many). Kentucky was another car company winner, and Oklahoma’s increases mostly came from energy efficiency (although this is another state where fossil fuels saw high increases in jobs within the past year).
Obviously every state is going to be different, but the main trends in these states that also bear out somewhat in the national report: the impact of EV factories, construction of renewable power and the rise of a broad spectrum of energy efficiency jobs — all with the caveat that it was also a growth year as well for mining, producing and transporting fossil fuels.
Want to read the whole thing? You can find the DOE’s report here: