Energy Prices Are Up — So Are Green Jobs

Amid Spiking Fuel Costs, Work In Renewable Energy Grows

Published on Apr 26, 2022

Updated on Oct 5, 2023

Written by Tim Hatton

As world events send the price of oil spiking, job postings indicate that the green economy is showing consistent and reliable growth—far more than the job market in conventional energy. 

Lightcast data show that over the past six years, postings for core green jobs have nearly doubled—increasing 96.2% from 2015 through 2021—and we project them to grow even further in the coming years. 

Amid spiking fuel costs in the first quarter of 2022, the data show that there were 18,231 postings for core green jobs—on track for an even higher yearly total than the series high of 65,492 in 2021.

Over the same period, job postings in oil and gas have also grown (by 63.04%), but the number of postings in those occupations have experienced smaller absolute growth, shown more volatility, and resulted in far fewer overall postings.

This analysis focuses on “core” jobs directly involved with tasks in the corresponding fields. In the green economy, examples would include solar engineers or energy efficiency specialists (as opposed to truck drivers delivering those solar panels). For oil and gas, this might be petroleum engineers or those working directly drilling oil in a field or on a rig.

“While both oil and gas job postings and core green job postings have been on a steady footing since 2015, core green jobs have been on a much stronger upward trajectory, and are a larger subset of job openings as part of the overall economy,” said Rachel Sederberg, Senior Economist at Lightcast.

Even before the war between Russia and Ukraine caused a spike in energy prices, the St. Louis Federal Reserve West Texas Intermediate index reports that a barrel of crude oil reached a fourteen-year high in March 2022 at $123.64 per barrel. The Consumer Price Index reports that gasoline prices were up 18.3% in March compared to February and up 48% over the year.

Automakers are acutely aware of that shift, and they’re adapting by adding more electric vehicles to their offerings. Ford, for example, is hurrying to release its F-150 Lightning in an attempt to grab an early share of the electric vehicle market, and General Motors has announced plans to release hybrid and fully electric versions of the Chevrolet Corvette.

As summer road-trip season approaches, and as more and more employers hope to require workers to return to the office, demand will increase and even more people are likely to be affected by higher prices at the gas pump. These rising costs make renewable energy a more economical and appealing choice for many individuals, businesses, and policymakers. 

The Broader Universe of Green Jobs

While the analysis above focuses on “core” green or oil and gas jobs, meaning those with a primary responsibility associated with the corresponding field, the “green economy” contains more than just those directly involved with renewable energy—it also includes those whose work supports it.

Beyond core jobs, Lightcast also tracks “green-enabled” jobs, which require some green skills (like an HVAC installer working on energy-efficient buildings), and “green-enabling” jobs providing support for those roles (like the sales team at a solar panel manufacturer). Our data also show those jobs are on the rise in the green economy:

“Core and enabled green jobs are projected to grow 5.7% nationally over the next 5 years,” Sederberg added. “This could be accelerated by a shift away from oil and towards other energy sources, pushed by both the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in 2021 and the high and volatile oil prices that we have seen as of late.” 

Green Jobs Now

Over the past several months, Lightcast has partnered with the workforce nonprofit WorkingNation to explore the present and future of the green economy. The collaboration, Green Jobs Now, looks at how individual US states have developed their own plans and projects for creating a sustainable economy that enables long-term stability and prosperity—a marked contrast from the volatility in conventional energy markets.

Pennsylvania, for example, was instrumental in the early days of the American oil industry, but our report shows the state is increasingly investing in alternatives. Green jobs growth there is predicted to outpace the national trend, according to our data.

You can read our overview of the Green Jobs Now project here, and read the rest of our state reports (which include Louisiana, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, and soon Mississippi) at WorkingNation’s website.

What Does This Mean For Energy Costs?

The rise of green jobs won’t necessarily cause a gallon of gas to cost less next week, but it’s still a meaningful long-term trend. An energy economy that relies more on renewable sources than on oil and gas is insulated better from the wide range of factors that affect oil production and distribution, and it’s also poised to grow much further as new innovations in green energy continue to develop.

Our skills data, reflecting millions of data points, shows that over 36 million US workers (22.5% of the labor force) can be retrained and upskilled into a greener role at little cost. The workers involved will likely benefit, too: the average salary of core green and green-enabled jobs posted in 2021 is $63,579, while the national average for all jobs posted that year is $52,036.

Ambitious projects like the rise of green jobs don’t happen quickly—but they are happening. Increased investment in the green economy is leading to more and better jobs posted in the US, far outpacing the scope and growth of jobs in conventional energy.