Oct 16th 2019

US green economy growth dwarfs Donald Trump’s highest hopes for the fossil fuel industry

by Lucien Georgeson and Mark Maslin

 

Lucien Georgeson is Researcher, Green Economy and Sustainable Development, UCL

Mark Maslin is Professor of Earth System Science, UCL

 

 

While US President Donald Trump may be “the world’s most powerful climate change denier”, our latest research suggests that he took over over a thriving green economy.

According to new data, by 2016 it was generating more than US$1.3 trillion in annual revenue and employed approximately 9.5m people – making it the largest green market in the world. It’s been growing rapidly too – between 2013 and 2016, both the industry’s value and employment figures grew by 20%.

For some time, economic data on the green economy in many countries has been lacking. In the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics stopped measuring jobs in the green economy in March 2013 due to budget cuts. This meant that US politicians were not able to make informed decisions about the relative merits of supporting green industry or backing fossil fuels – as Trump had pledged to do on his 2016 campaign trail.

To fill this knowledge gap, we analysed massive databases to record the latest available business transactions from every country in the world. We estimated sales revenue and employment figures across 24 economic sub-sectors covering renewable energy, environmental protection, and low carbon goods and services – collectively termed the green economy. We used this same standardised method across all countries, allowing us to make meaningful comparisons between them.

Our study estimates that revenue in the global green economy was $7.87 trillion in 2016. At $1.3 trillion, the US made up 16.5% of the global market – the largest in the world.

Our analysis also suggests that in the US, nearly ten times more people were employed in the green economy and its supply chains (9.5m) than employed directly in the fossil fuel industry (roughly 1m) – that is, miners, electricity grid workers, infrastructure manufacturers and construction workers. This wide gap comes despite the US fossil fuel industry receiving huge subsidies, estimated at $649 billion in 2015 alone.

America first?

Importantly, the green economy has been growing faster than Trump’s wildest dreams for the fossil fuel industry. As a presidential candidate in 2016, Trump set out his “America first” energy policy, promising to add 400,000 new jobs to the fossil fuel industry. During the campaign, he suggested that he could increase the industry’s economic output by $700bn over 30 years.

Our data indicates that the green economy grew by over $60bn per year 2013 and 2016. This dwarfs Trump’s best hopes for growth in the fossil fuel industry, which equate to an annual increase in value of $23bn.

Employment in the US green economy also grew by the equivalent of 1.5m full-time jobs during this time, whereas coal mining jobs declined by 37,000 over the same period.

A precarious position

These are strong numbers. But after three years of faltering support, the US’s position as a world leader in the green economy is precarious.

Up to now, Trump’s campaign rhetoric has not been backed up by major policy changes, although his rollback of a number of Obama era regulations has likely helped the fossil fuel industry in the short term. But unlike Trump, competing superpowers are strongly backing renewables.

China, for example, has emerged as a global climate leader in the wake of Trump’s determination to pull out of the Paris Agreement. In 2017, it announced plans to invest USD$361 billion in clean energy by 2020 to generate 13 million jobs. This investment alone could go a long way to closing the gap between the value of the US’s green economy and that of China’s, the second largest in the world. Other countries are also poised to overtake the US in the race to shape the global green economy.


Read more: How Japan's renewables-powered Olympics could kick off a global race for clean energy


The Green New Deal – popularised by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others – is an ambitious policy agenda that could reestablish the US’s commitment to the green economy. It proposes massive investment in renewable energy and an environment-friendly public works programme of gargantuan scale. Phasing out direct fossil fuel subsides could free up some of the funding required for such investment.

It’s not for us to say whether the Green New Deal is right for the US. But what our data does say loud and clear is this: if you want a strong economy that supports thousands of new jobs, then supporting its green quarters is essential. And of course, it will help our imperiled living planet too.

Lucien Georgeson, Researcher, Green Economy and Sustainable Development, UCL and Mark Maslin, Professor of Earth System Science, UCL

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Browse articles by author

More Essays

Jan 7th 2021
EXTRACT: "During the second world war, Nazi Germany banned all listening to foreign radio stations. Germans who overlooked their duty to ignore foreign broadcasts faced penalties ranging from imprisonment to execution. The British government imposed no comparable ban which would have been incompatible with the principles for which it had gone to war. That’s not to say, though, that it wasn’t alarmed by the popularity of German stations. Most effective among the Nazis broadcasting to the UK was William Joyce. This Irish-American fascist, known in Britain as “Lord Haw-Haw”, won a large audience during the “phoney war” in 1939 and early 1940, with his trademark call sign delivered in his unmistakable accent: 'Jairmany calling, Jairmany calling'. "
Jan 6th 2021
EXTRACTS: "The revelation of Trump’s hour-long recorded call with Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Secretary of State, over this past weekend crossed a new line – a line that not only set a high-water mark of moral reprehensibility, but a legal line as well, specifically in his pressuring Raffensperger to 'find the 11,780 votes' that would hand Trump the state and his veiled threat (' it’s going to be very costly…') if Raffensperger failed to comply. ........ Raffensperger – who has been forced to endure intense pressure, intimidation and threats – has proven himself to be a man of integrity and principle."
Jan 6th 2021
EXTRACT: "A final, perhaps more sinister, possibility is that Johnson knows exactly what he is doing. His political style evokes a unique blend of dishevelled buffoon and privileged Etonian. He is someone who likes to bring good news and doesn’t take life too seriously. Making tough, controversial decisions threatens this persona and so hiding in the shadows until his hand is forced helps him to reconcile his identity threat."
Dec 21st 2020
EXTRACT: "The resultant loss of land, the growing impoverishment of its citizens, and the hostile actions of Israeli occupation forces and settlers have forced many Bethlehemites to leave their beloved city and homeland. Given these accumulated violations of human rights and their impact on Christians and Muslims, alike, one might expect Christians in the West to speak out in defense of these residents of the little town they celebrate each year.  That, sadly, is not to be – most especially (and I might add ironically) among powerful Christian conservative groups in the US which, after all, claim to be the defenders of their co-religionists world-wide."
Dec 7th 2020
EXTRACT: "Worldwide, people donate hundreds of billions of dollars to charity. In the United States alone, charitable donations amounted to about $450 billion last year. As 2020 draws to a close, perhaps you or members of your family are considering giving to charity. But there are, literally, millions of charities. Which should you choose?"
Dec 1st 2020
EXTRACT: " The Museum of Modern Art is currently presenting Félix Fénéon: The Anarchist and the Avant-Garde – From Signac to Matisse and Beyond, examining the immense influence of this art critic, editor, publisher, collector and anarchist............A crucial feature of anarchism is the emphasis on the individual as the fundamental building block, the essential point of departure for any human association whatever. The individual was characterized by Grave in 1899 as a social creature who should be “left free to attach himself according to his tendencies, his affinities, free to seek out those with him whom his liberty and aptitudes can agree.” "
Nov 25th 2020
EXTRACT: "As the pandemic raged in April, churchgoers in Ohio defied warnings not to congregate. Some argued that their religion conferred them immunity from COVID-19. In one memorable CNN clip, a woman insisted she would not catch the virus because she was “covered in Jesus’ blood”. "
Nov 18th 2020
EXTRACT: "Here are just a few ways exercise changes the structure of our brain."
Nov 15th 2020
EXTRACT: "Perhaps it is Piller’s discovery that when it comes to war there is no such thing as innocence...."
Nov 4th 2020
EXTRACT: "I imagined America as the land of the free that gave voice to the forgotten. Where race, color, and creed do not matter and human rights are guarded with zeal. Where the ingathering of all cultures and people made it richer and human resources and talent knew no limits or constraints. Where opportunity awaits the able and generosity is extended to the needy. Where everyone is equal before the law and political differences are valued to make America better. Where sacrifices are willingly made to right the wrong morals and fortitude guide its leaders. Where caring about friends and allies is the hallmark of the nation and opposing oppression near and far is the emblem that distinguished America. This is the character of America. This is the soul of America. This is what made America great. The America that gave me a home. The America that fulfilled my dreams."
Oct 15th 2020
EXTRACT: "“The paintings which I propose to do will depict the struggles of a people to create a nation and their attempt to build a democracy” – this is how Jacob Lawrence described his project in 1954. Over sixty-five years later his proposal has, if anything, become only more urgent. Two days after this exhibition closes, Americans will vote in what is arguably the most significant election in a generation, an election that will measure our commitment to preserving that democracy, the struggle for which was Lawrence’s mighty theme."
Oct 15th 2020
EXTRACT: "There are also other ways our life stories can be passed down through generations, besides being inscribed in our DNA...... One 2014 study looked at epigenetic changes in mice. Mice love the sweet smell of cherries, so when a waft reaches their nose, a pleasure zone in the brain lights up, motivating them to scurry around and hunt out the treat.... The researchers decided to pair this smell with a mild electric shock, and the mice quickly learned to freeze in anticipation....... The study found this new memory was transmitted across the generations. The mice’s grandchildren were fearful of cherries, despite not having experienced the electric shocks themselves. The grandfather’s sperm DNA changed its shape, leaving a blueprint of the experience entwined in the genes."
Oct 1st 2020
EXTRACT: "As we Americans face the potential loss of a peaceful transition of power after the election and the possible end of democracy as we know it, we are reminded that discourse matters, that words matter and that the one who quotes poetry is a man who reads—and that matters."
Sep 25th 2020
EXTRACT: "We now know the potentially appalling long-term effects of suffering cruelty from others, including damage to both physical and mental health. The benefits of being compassionate towards oneself, rather than treating oneself cruelly, are also increasingly recognised..... And the idea that we must suffer to grow is questionable. Positive life events, such as falling in love, having children and achieving cherished goals can lead to growth..... Teaching through cruelty invites abuses of power and selfish sadism. Yet Buddhism offers an alternative - wrathful compassion. Here, we act from love to confront others to protect them from their greed, hatred and fear. Life can be cruel, truth can be cruel, but we can choose not to be."
Sep 19th 2020
EXTRACT: "Over his incredible career, David Attenborough has seen more of earth’s natural wonders than almost anyone. To hear him talk, with such clarity, about how bad things are getting is deeply moving. Scientists have recently demonstrated what would be needed to bend the curve on biodiversity loss. As Attenborough says in the final scene, “What happens next, is up to every one of us”. "
Sep 15th 2020
EXTRACTS: "The Anglo-Australian multinational company Rio Tinto – the largest iron ore mining company in the world – demolished two 46,000-year-old Aboriginal rock shelters in May.......The Dampier Archipelago of Western Australia is home to thousands of Aboriginal pictographs, and perhaps the oldest surviving rock art in the world. Indeed, Australia’s Indigenous art represents the longest uninterrupted tradition of art in the world – going back over 50,000 years......Aboriginal people represent the oldest continuous culture in the world...."
Sep 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution was a defining event that changed how we think about the relationship between religion and modernity. Ayatollah Khomeini’s mass mobilisation of Islam showed that modernisation by no means implies a linear process of religious decline.....Reliable large-scale data on Iranians’ post-revolutionary religious beliefs, however, has always been lacking...........In June 2020, our research institute, the Group for Analyzing and Measuring Attitudes in IRAN...conducted an online survey......The results verify Iranian society’s unprecedented secularisation."
Sep 12th 2020
EXTRACT: "Just as you can upgrade your old computer’s operating system, culture can evolve even if intelligence doesn’t. Humans in ancient times lacked smartphones and spaceflight, but we know from studying philosophers such as Buddha and Aristotle that they were just as clever. Our brains didn’t change, our culture did."