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Expand chart

A new analysis shows lots of potential for regions with a high share of fossil fuel jobs to benefit from wind and solar development — with the right policies in place.

Why it matters: The idea of a "just transition" in the energy sector is discussed a lot in climate policy plans, including President Biden's recent executive order.

  • An aggressive shift to low-carbon energy to fight global warming creates risks for places where employment and the wider economy benefit from fossil fuel industries.
  • Enter the Brookings Institution analysis of counties with dense concentrations of oil, gas and coal-related employment that also have high renewables potential.

The big picture: The paper finds "impressive overlap between where fossil fuel jobs are now and where renewable energy generation could be."

  • "A quarter of the counties in the U.S. with the greatest potential for both wind and solar electricity generation are also fossil fuel hubs."
  • It also concludes that targeted policies to make that happen could lower political barriers to emissions-cutting policies.
Expand chart

How it works: Brookings analyzed county-level employment to construct a map of these "fossil fuel hubs."

  • Those are places in the top 20% job density in a suite of sectors like oil-and-gas extraction, fossil power generation, coal mining, oil-and-gas pipelines and distribution and more.
  • They overlaid that with University of Texas data on regions with high potential for wind and solar development and the most competitive costs for doing it.
  • That data relies on a metric called the levelized cost of electricity, which basically means the costs of building and then running, supplying and maintaining power facilities over time.

The intrigue: They find that of the 155 congressional districts with high potential in at least one of the renewable technologies, 91 are represented by GOP lawmakers.

But, but, but: The right policies are needed for successful transitions, the paper argues, and it's pretty clear-eyed about the opportunities but also the challenges.

  • It calls for steps like targeted job training efforts in “Goldilocks” communities — places reliant on fossil industries that also have strong renewables potential.
  • More broadly, transition efforts should involve partnerships between government, schools, labor, community groups and other stakeholders.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Feb 23, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Interior nominee Deb Haaland looks to thread the needle on oil

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Biden's pick for Interior secretary faces a balancing act as she defends limits on oil-and-gas development while responding to concerns that the initiatives — and her own policy views — threaten producing states.

Driving the news: Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) appears this morning before the Senate energy committee vetting her nomination and faces critical questioning from GOP members.

White House nominates Rick Spinrad as NOAA leader

In this NOAA GOES-East satellite handout image, Hurricane Dorian, a Cat. 4 storm, moves slowly past Grand Bahama Island on September 2, 2019. (Photo by NOAA via Getty Images)

The White House on Thursday evening nominated Rick Spinrad, an oceanographer at Oregon State University, to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Why it matters: Filling the NOAA slot would complete the Biden administration's leadership on the climate and environment team. The agency, located within the Commerce Department, houses the National Weather Service and conducts much of the nation's climate science research.

2 hours ago - World

Israeli officials will object to restoration of Iran deal in D.C. visit

Photo: Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed the delegation traveling to Washington, D.C. next week for strategic talks on Iran to stress their objection to a U.S. return to the 2015 nuclear deal and to refuse to discuss its contents, Israeli officials say.

Why it matters: That position is similar to the one Israel took in the year before the 2015 nuclear deal was announced, which led to a rift between the Israeli government and the Obama administration. History could now repeat itself.