White House press secretary Jen Psaki Thursday pointedly avoiding stating that workers in fossil fuel industries would earn equal income if they took clean energy jobs.
The Houston Chronicle recently reported that clean energy jobs, such as working on wind turbines or installing solar panels, “don’t pay nearly as well” as those in the oil and gas industry.
“Someone working in a refinery leaving to go install solar panels, they’re probably going to take a 75 percent cut in pay,” said Rick Levy, president of the Texas AFL-CIO, the state’s largest labor union, in comments to the Houston Chronicle.
“Is that something the administration is aware of?” Fox News’ Peter Doocy asked Psaki.
“I’m not sure which jobs are being compared there,” the press secretary replied. “Here’s what I can convey to you. The president is committed during his presidency to invest in work with labor unions, with climate activists, with a range of with the industry to invest in good-paying, clean energy jobs.”
She added that unions would play an important role in securing those high-paying jobs.
“Oil and gas jobs are not going away,” Psaki noted. “There are many industries that are, of course, continuing to function. The outgoing administration flooded the oil markets with cheap federal leases. This will not affect oil and gas production or jobs for years to come.”
“High paying, good-paying, but equal pay?” Doocy asked the press secretary.
“High paying, good-paying jobs … I’m not sure what specific jobs you’re comparing. What I’m conveying is the commitment to ensuring that jobs in the clean energy industry will be high-paying union jobs. That’s what the president’s objective and commitment is,” she replied.
Solar photovoltaic installers make an average of under $50,000, and wind turbine installers collect just over $50,000, on average. Oil and gas workers, such as those driving trucks or manning the rig, can earn over six figures.
“What do we do for the folks that have been powering this country for the last 100 years? How do we shape this new economy so jobs can be sustaining in the same way jobs in the fossil fuel industry have been?” Levy questioned.
“We need to take off the rose-colored glasses and figure out how people are going to make a living,” Levy said. “A transition sounds like a fancy name for a funeral.”
Gregory Wetstone, President and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), denied that fossil fuel workers would have to take a pay cut to take on renewable energy jobs.
“We have research proving that anecdotal characterization is false,” Wetstone said in a statement to Fox News, pointing to a recent analysis from ACORE. “Wages in fossil fuel extraction-related jobs in coal, natural gas, and oil averaged $24.37/hour in 2019 while solar and wind jobs provided a $24.85 median hourly wage. The median wage for wind jobs was almost $26.00/hour. When it comes to building our clean energy economy, it’s better to stick to the facts. Renewable energy jobs are good-paying jobs.”
Biden hit pause on federal oil and gas leases in the first week of his administration, and fracking advocates sounded the alarm for what that could mean for the future of the industry.
But energy companies stockpiled these leases anticipating a potential Trump loss, meaning they could continue to develop as long as they had a permit to drill for oil and gas.
About 22 percent of American oil is drilled from federal land and waters and about 14 percent of natural gas, according to the American Petroleum Institute.
But as the Biden administration pushes a pivot to clean energy, they’ll have to face another barrier to providing jobs — nearly two-thirds of the world’s solar panels are made in China.