COAL-RELATED vs. WIND-RELATED JOBS IN MONTANA

  •  In Summary the Effect of Initiative on jobs: Approximately 1300 coal miners work in Montana. Twenty-three percent of the coal they mine goes to produce electricity in Montana. So gradually, by 2050, 80% of the 23% of mining jobs will be affected by this initiative. Many of the other coal mining jobs will be affected by the transition away from coal generated power in surrounding states and countries. Approximately 500 workers toil in Montana’s coal generating facilities. Between 30 to 100 railroad workers haul coal here. Much of the power they produce or haul goes out of state. Thus, approximately 23% of 1900 jobs, that is, a total of 437 jobs will be lost by the Initiative over 33 years. As many as half of those will be phased out as workers retire or move to other employment on their own volition.

In depth discussion of Montana’s fossil fuel workers: In 2014 Montana’s coal industry employed 1,281  people with a payroll of $106,435,000. [3] That would equal an average salary of $83,087/year.

  •  In 2013, Montana produced 42,231 short tons of coal, [3a] while burning 9,826 thousand short tons, all but 262 short tons (23.3%) to produce electricity. [3b] So, approximately 298 workers (23.3% * 1,281) are associated with mining coal for use in Montana.
  • In addition, it has been estimated that Montana’s 7 coal-fired power plants employ between 456 – 510 workers, [4] about 30 of which lost their jobs when the Corette Plant in Billings shut down.  
  • Numbers on how many transportation workers who haul coal will be affected when Montana transitions to cleaner methods of producing electricity are not readily available. However, since most of the coal-fired plants in Montana are located at the mine-mouth, fewer transportation workers will be affected by Montana’s change than are affected by the transition occurring in states with generating stations located farther away from the mines. 
  • Regardless of what we do to reach 80% renewable energy in Montana,  many of the 1,281 Montana miners and some transportation employees will lose their jobs because the entire world is transitioning to clean energy.
  •  The average age of coal plant workers is 48 years. A 2006 study by Krishnan and Associates concluded that “a 2,000 MW coal-fired plant with about 200 to 250 employees will likely lose half its current plant staff … [by 2016] due to retirement, attrition and other similar issues.” [5] Similar retirements and attrition will likely ease the transition to 48% clean energy in 2030 and 80% renewable energy in 2050.

Other states and countries are using less coal as they switch to electricity generating technologies using the wind and sun–technologies that do not carry a fuel cost with them.

Hence, some of Montana’s present coal jobs will undoubtedly be lost as we transition to  the clean energy required to mitigate the adverse consequences of our excessive fossil fuel use. However, an orderly transition, accompanied by enhanced unemployment and retraining benefits for displaced fossil fuel workers, provided by passage of the 80% by 2050 Initiative, will cushion the adverse job-loss effects of the transition.

wind & $400 billion in avoided climate damage by 2050
Click the picture to be taken to the Wind Vision Report. (cc) Flickr via energy.gov

Some of the transition to 80% renewable electricity within Montana will include replacement of jobs lost in one energy sector by gains in another. That is, the permanent jobs lost in the mining and power plant sector located in a few places will be offset by temporary and permanent jobs spread throughout the state to install and maintain wind turbines and solar collectors.

In addition, the potential for employment in the renewable sector is greater than in the state’s coal and coal-fire power plant industries because of the movement away from fossil fuel that is needed to moderate global warming. The Montana’s Renewable Portfolio Report envisions the following job possibilities here:

Link to Potential Wind Jobs in Montana
(cc) by Good Jobs Clean Air

As the following graphic demonstrates, Montana has tremendous potential to generate electricity from the wind, ranking it in the top five states for wind-generating potential. However, it has lagged behind, ranking 23rd in wind generating capacity.

Link to Graphic Illustrating Growth of WindPower in Montana and Potential
(cc) by Good Jobs Clean Air

Whether Montana’s 665 MW of installed (2014) wind-generating capacity can approach its 21,030 MW (2050) potential, accompanied by commensurate benefits for rural landowners, will depend on the degree to which our energy policy, including an enhanced 80% by 2050 RPS, is supported by Montana voters and our public officials.

Graph of 2050 wind potential
Click the graphic to see interactive map.

Job loss claims:

It is being claimed that requiring cleaner power in Montana will cost jobs.

Without proof, a successful 2004 candidate for the Montana Public Service  Commission, made a similar claim to scare voters. He contended that balanced plans seeking 20% renewable energy in the portfolio of Montana’s utilities will cause “massive” unemployment. The opposite turned out to be true. Embracing wind farms actually coincided with a net gain of 525 more coal mining jobs than if we had continued with business as usual.

Montana’s total coal mining employment rose from 722 employees in 2004 [2 table 20] to 1,247 in 2013. [1 table 20] Only 52% of those belonged to a union. 

In addition, to meet its 15% renewable electricity by 2015 goal (RPS or Renewable Portfolio Standard), Montana has added an average of 90 to 100 new wind-powered jobs annually since 2005. The graphic below shows total jobs created while constructing and maintaining wind turbines since 2005, and their net 2015 market value in Montana.

Link to Graphic on Man Year in Wind 2005 -2015
(cc) by Good Jobs Clean Air

To show you want climate justice for fossil fuel workers as well as the rest of us during the transition to 80% renewable electricity by 2050, please tell us you want to sign  the paper copy of the Initiative petition so it can be on the 2018 ballot by clicking HERE.

Page last edited 6/6/2017

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