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Climate Change: The Midwest--Renewable Jobs Outpace Coal

Renewable energy sources, including solar and wind, far outpace coal when it comes to generating jobs even in states where fossil fuels are the primary source of energy, according to scientist and energy expert Jack Kerfoot.

In this episode of the Lean to the Left podcast, Kerfoot says politicians bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry continue to claim they support coal, primarily, because they want to protect jobs and not put industry employees out of work. However, he says the facts prove that's a false claim. Indeed, renewable jobs outpace coal -- dramatically.

Fir example, in Indiana, which had 13 operating coal mines in 2021, there were only 1,808 employees compared to the10,500 people employed by wind farms, solar, and hydro electric energy operations.

"So the reality is that closing coal in the state of Indiana does not put jobs at risk," Kerfoot says on the podcast. "In fact, the more they can do to accelerate the development of renewable energy, they can increase job activity and improve the economy.

In March 2023, fossil fuels generated 82 percent of Indiana's electricity, according to Kerfoot, while only 18 percent was from renewables.

Meanwhile, in Missouri, where 50 percent of the state's electricity was from coal, down from 80 percent in 2010, there were only eight coal miners, while renewable energy operations provided 4,500 jobs. "(If) they put up another wind farm or another solar park, those eight coal miners are going to be knocking on the door saying 'We'd like to go over there,'" said Kerfoot.

In Ohio, where 26 percent of the state's energy comes from coal, down from 83 percent in 2010, there are nine operating coal mines with 354 workers in 2021 -- compared to over 9,000 in the renewable energy industry, according to the longtime energy scientist and renewable energy advocate.

"So, when you see legislators talking about 'I'm supporting the coal industry for the jobs,' usually what that means is that there are lobbyists on the side providing the candidates substantial funding to support their industry because (they) don't want to one pushed to cut coal and go out of business," says Kerfoot.

He challenges voters in states where fossil fuel sources are being protected to support candidates who are knowledgeable about renewable energy and recognize that this brings jobs and cheaper electricity, while improving the environment and helping to combat climate change.

Meanwhile, Kerfoot credits Iowa and Illinois for making substantial progress by embracing renewables. Today, 68 percent of Iowa's electricity is powered by wind and solar at some of the cheapest electricity costs in the US. Only 14 percent of Illinois' electricity comes from coal, down from 50 percent in 2010. In 2021, there were 2017 coal jobs, compared to 15,000 people who worked on wind turbines and solar parks.

"When a coal mine is mined out, they close it. As long as the wind blows and the sun shines, they don't close the wind turbines," he says.

This is the second in a series of episodes examining various regions around the country. The first episode addressed four Northeastern states and is now streaming. The next episode will focus on the Southwest and stream on August 28.

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