The myth about retraining workers

Posted February 26, 2018

Opponents of the fossil fuel industry have mounted huge public campaigns backed by fringe environmentalists to shutdown coal-fired power plants that would result in the loss of thousands of jobs.  These activists claim they have a plan to retrain the energy workers in some other industry resulting in no net loss in jobs.  In most cases, the opponents say coal workers could work in the renewable energy or green industry making the same or more in wages. But that’s simply untrue.

For starters, in North Dakota there are only 136 full time jobs directly tied to the wind industry while there are 4000 full time jobs in the lignite industry. Furthermore, the average wage of a wind turbine technician, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $60,000. A power plant operator makes $79,000 on average. Other jobs that are considered part of the ‘Green Industry’ include jobs like installers of energy efficient windows which make about $42,000 a year.

Let’s take a look at some other average wages of North Dakota workers:

You can read the full report here.

Three coal counties in North Dakota are consistently identified as the highest wage locations anywhere in the state. And since employees in the lignite industry tend to stay their for their entire career, they often own homes in communities in Center, Beulah, Hazen, Washburn and Underwood. Asking them to leave their homes is akin to asking a farmer or rancher to leave their farm to live a new life in the city.

The next time an anti-coal activist says they want to retrain an energy worker just remember that really means putting people into a lower paying job or no job at all.