Job creation in the renewable energy sector is still a hot topic. The pandemic resulted in the loss of jobs across the economy. Coal workers are seeing job reductions as coal is phased out, and oil and gas workers fear the same fate. While Biden promises that renewable energy will create well-paying union jobs, there is some debate on how realistic that claim may be.
Electric vehicles are one area where creating jobs seems counterintuitive. If EVs are successful, it could make cars manufactured in the United States more competitive, creating more work. But, it takes about one third fewer workers to create an electric car, compared to the manufacture of gasoline-powered vehicles.
The bright spot for jobs related to EVs is in manufacturing the batteries they rely on for power. One of the things the pandemic made very clear is that disruptions in a supply chain have wide-reaching implications. Having batteries built here will make it easier to integrate batteries into cars, and it would lessen the transportation costs of importing batteries. Manufacturing batteries in the United States will create a more secure supply chain. We even have reserves of lithium, a key metal component for the batteries.
While miners were hopeful that lithium would be sourced within the United States, it seems that the Biden administration is planning to source the needed metals from ally nations, but process the metals and manufacture the batteries here at home.
We can create and sustain good manufacturing jobs only if we intentionally bring our battery supply chain back to the United States. A mix of incentives will be needed to make this happen. When it does, these well-paying manufacturing jobs can be located where otherwise unemployed workers reside, and where the car manufacturers will have easy access to the batteries.
In a recent win for employees, GM said that it will support the unions who want to represent the workers at new battery manufacturing plants they are building. This ties in with Biden’s claims about union jobs supporting the renewables economy.
When these manufacturing plants are up and running, the benefits are not just to the workers and their families. The money they earn will be spent mainly in their local communities, benefitting the small businesses and restaurants in the area, as well as schools with increased tax revenues. All of those businesses will need workers, which repeats the benefits.