Don’t It Make My Brown Jobs Green? What Renewable Energy Means for Jobs and Job Quality

Joseph Marchand


In the United States and other nations, a long-term transition is seemingly under way in the consumption and production of energy, moving from nonrenewable energy sources based on fossil fuels and toward renewables. This evolution is primarily driven by the intertwined environmental goals of reducing pollution (from burning fossil fuels) and reducing reliance on nonrenewables (due to their increased scarcity).

This transition has often led to classification of energy sources into two basic flavors, typically denoted by the colors brown and green. Green energy resources include the renewables of bioenergy, geothermal, hydro, solar, and wind. Brown energy resources include the nonrenewable fossil fuels of coal, natural gas, and oil, as well as nuclear power, in that it is also not renewable. In the main, the future of energy appears more “green” than “brown,” as the cartoon on the facing page shows.

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