Energy and the Economy: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Energy Towers

Energy is a vital sector and a job generator, but it is also important to understand that there are some real challenges for how the development of energy resources and systems benefit the economy.

The Good: Energy is a Job Generator

The 2017 United States Energy and Employment Report (USEER) estimated there are 6.2 million workers in Energy and Energy Efficiency in 2016. This broad definition for Energy accounts for four of every 100 jobs in the U.S. with the largest share in Energy Efficiency Construction. The Energy sectors defined by the USEER report added 300,000 net new jobs in 2016, more than any other sectors than Accommodation and Food Services.

Source: 2017 United States Energy and Employment Report (USEER)

Energy is a common thread woven throughout every aspect of our lives. It is a link between all sectors of the economy, our health, and the environment. Virtually every aspect of our modern industrial lives depend on reliable electrical power and energy infrastructures. Energy is vital for everything we produce but that link is weakening as manufacturing grows more efficient. Gross output in U.S. manufacturing has remained stable or grown since 1998, while overall fuel consumption and energy intensity have decreased.

EIA Manufacturing Sector Output, fuel consumption, and energy intensity (1998-2014)

The Bad:  Energy Growth <> Job Growth

Even though energy is essential to our economic life, the development of energy resources does not translate into overall economic growth. At the state level, the development of natural resources and mining has not benefited the host states – there is no relationship between output growth in these sectors and the overall growth of the state economy. The lone exception is North Dakota, where the energy boom fueled growth in a state with about 750,000 people. For other states experiencing an energy boom, such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, the energy boom has not translated to overall economic growth.

The Ugly:  The Workforce Gaps

73 percent of employers reported difficulty hiring qualified workers over the last 12 months. Some of this reflects the difficulty in finding qualified workers willing with the skills and desire to take on a challenging job. However it also reflects the difficulty that some sectors have in recruiting from a broader pool of candidates.

Ethnic and racial minorities are not well represented in the energy workforce. In the U.S., Hispanic or Latino workers make up 16 percent of the workforce but only 14 percent in energy. Black or African American workers  account for eight percent of the energy workforce compared to 12 percent. The glaring gap however is that across all sectors of energy women account for a low 22 percent of the workforce in energy efficient vehicles, up to 34 percent for electric power generation, which is still below the 47 percent for the overall U.S. workforce.

Conclusion

We need energy for our economy and it is an important source of job growth. However, the development of energy assets does not guarantee growth in other sectors. Furthermore, more must be done so that the jobs that are created are available to the widest possible pool of eligible candidates.

48 Hours in Pittsburgh with the Consulate General of Canada

Bernard-Blog-20160405To many Americans, Canada is our friendly neighbor to the north, known for an affable attitude, a passion for pucks and a penchant for strong beer.  What is perhaps less known is how critical trade with Canada is to the economy of the United States.  Consider:

  • Nearly 9 million U.S. jobs depend on trade and investment with Canada
  • Canada is the top export destination for 35 states
  • Canada is the number one supplier of crude oil, refined petroleum products, natural gas,
    and electricity to the U.S. as well as a
    leading supplier of uranium
  • 400,000 people cross the Canada–U.S. border daily

Source: http://can-am.gc.ca/can-am/index.aspx?lang=eng

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Balancing Energy, Air Quality, and a Sense of Place in Pittsburgh

Air-QualityOn Monday June 29, 2015 the United States Supreme Court brought air quality into the limelight when it ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency failed to fully consider the cost to energy producers of limiting air emissions.  While the need to balance the costs of regulation against the intended social benefit is nothing new, the highest court of law held the EPA to that standard just months after the Urban Land Institute reported in America in 2015 that quality of environment (including air and water quality) is the top community attribute priority for people choosing a place to live in 2015. Continue reading “Balancing Energy, Air Quality, and a Sense of Place in Pittsburgh”

Energy and Beyond: Fargo-Moorhead Powers On

Fargo-EnergyThe Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, Minnesota Metro Statistical Area (MSA) has received numerous accolades in recent years. Among them #2 overall among mid-sized metros by Area Development Leading Locations, #2 in Forbes Best Small Places for Business and Careers, #5 Milken Institute Best Performing Cities Index and #3 Fastest Growing Cities by NerdWallet.com. Continue reading “Energy and Beyond: Fargo-Moorhead Powers On”

It’s all About that Base: Baseline Data, Energy Planning, & Economic Development

P32-Energy-BaselineIt’s no secret that the best strategic plans are based on qualitative and quantitative analysis, using this information to determine the best allocation of resources to pursue growth and change.  Too often, strategic planning processes “jump right in” and do not take the time to fully understand and quantify current and expected conditions. Change cannot be measured without first analyzing existing conditions to establish a baseline dataset from which change can be measured. This approach also applies to regional energy planning. As regions consider energy in relation to economic development planning, there are direct correlations to the impact energy has on people, place, and ideas. Establishing a regional energy baseline must be the first step before tactical planning can occur.

Additionally, energy planning is an often-ignored element in developing regional economic development strategies. Energy is a universal business itself, however it also impacts every single industry and business within a region. Energy directly impacts the health of people across a region, and is a critical element to regional success. How can economic development planning occur without energy planning? Continue reading “It’s all About that Base: Baseline Data, Energy Planning, & Economic Development”

Energy Events Take Center Stage in the Steel City

Energy Innovation Center PittsburghThis spring, the under-construction Energy Innovation Center (EIC) in Pittsburgh will be offering courses in “Retro-Commissioning Commercial and Industrial Buildings” and “Project Management for the Energy Industry” as a part of their Corporate Training Exchange, an initiative that brings the public courses that were designed by the nation’s top corporations.

When it opens, the 6.6-acre complex will be an incubator for the green energy industry, a job-training center and a technical support complex for work-force development. Located in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, in the historic Connelly Trade School building, the EIC intends to bring job creation, entrepreneurship and urban economic revitalization to an area that has suffered economically in the past 50 years. By bringing world-class technology to the area, this not-for-profit organization will bring together community members and corporate partners. Continue reading “Energy Events Take Center Stage in the Steel City”

Innovation Clusters: Water is Gold

Forget the gold rush.  A “water rush” is underway and water rich states are well positioned.

Just a few short years ago businesses expanding or relocating were likely to cite broadband and transportation networks among the most important factors in their decision process.  The Southwestern U.S. has been targeted for the majority of this investment activity. But with below average snowpack, higher temperatures, growing consumption, and extreme drought appearing to be the new normal, water has quickly become the new gold.

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Cities Coming to Life

Living Buildings as Regional Hubs for Sustainable Redevelopment

Imagine buildings that are able to produce all of the energy they need using renewable sources such as wind or solar, that capture and treat all of the water needed for building occupants and systems, eliminating the need for water or sewage treatment infrastructure. Mounting evidence suggests that buildings of the future must look like this to secure a sustainable future. The Living Building Challenge (LBC) is leading the charge by requiring these attributes of projects that are seeking its prominent certification. And as cities and towns transition to green building and sustainable living, we look to Living Buildings for inspiration. Continue reading “Cities Coming to Life”

Striving for Zero: Commercial & Residential Green Buildings in Korea

Last week, our team began learning about green building in Korea. The country’s interest in green building is a product of several variables. Perhaps most significantly, the current president has made green growth his legacy issue and has been promoting it through a series of policies over the past 5 years (and 2 years prior to that as mayor of Seoul). Though the country is divided on their support for the president and his approach to green growth, there seems to be general consensus on several of the other variables. First, Korea imports nearly all of their energy (except for a small amount of coal). This of course makes energy very expensive in Korea (around 30 cents per Kwh for electricity) and puts the country in a vulnerable political and economic position. Second, as I referenced in my previous post, Korean culture simply places a high level of importance on the environment and Koreans are especially proud of their natural resources. Finally, traditional Korean architecture is based upon many sustainable principles (I promise a separate post on this!), which continue to influence the built environment today. Continue reading “Striving for Zero: Commercial & Residential Green Buildings in Korea”

Regional Collaboration Beyond the Press Release: The TechBelt Model

Download a PDF of this Article: Regional Collaboration Beyond the Press Release – The TechBelt Model Collaboration is a contact sport. “Regional collaboration” has long been a somewhat idyllic phrase within technology-based economic development circles. Beyond the websites and trade show booths, its rare to find “collaboration” expressed in an every day operating plan. Geography, municipal boundaries, political districts and competing organizations provide real challenges for regional initiatives to find and sustain common ground. With the announcement of the Federal Regional Innovation Cluster (RICs) initiative in March of 2010, those barriers are becoming more transparent. That initiative defined RICs as “geographically-bounded and active networks of similar, synergistic or complementary organizations which leverage their region’s unique competitive strengths to create jobs and broader prosperity.” Since its launch, the RIC initiative has established several programs such as the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator, the Energy Regional Innovation Cluster and the I6 Green Challenge, all of which leverage technical resources and financial incentives to help formalize networks and link key assets in tangible and responsive ways. Continue reading “Regional Collaboration Beyond the Press Release: The TechBelt Model”