Apr 18, 2019

Axios Generate

By Ben Geman
Ben GemanAmy Harder

Welcome back! Today marks the 1975 release date of ZZ Top's "Fandango!" so it has today's intro tune...

1 big thing: Green energy jobs soar but fall short too
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Adapted from Brookings; Chart: Axios Visuals

Employment in low-carbon energy fields is better-paid than average jobs and is widely available to workers without college degrees, a new Brookings Institution analysis shows.

But, but, but: These sectors — clean energy production, efficiency, and environmental management — are "dominated" by men, skew older, and some lack racial diversity, the study finds.

Why it matters: The report provides a highly granular look at the workforce characteristics in fast-growing, low-carbon energy sectors that already employ several million people combined.

  • It arrives amid the political rise of the Green New Deal — a concept that marries huge investments in clean energy with a goal of ensuring that marginalized communities share the benefits.

Here are a few top-line findings:

  • The wage difference is real. Check out the chart above. "The hourly differences between a clean energy economy occupation and one elsewhere in the economy can equate to a raise between 8 and 19 percent, if not more," the study states.
  • You often don't need advanced degrees. "Workers with no more than a high school diploma fill over half of all energy efficiency occupations, while 45 percent of workers in clean energy production occupations share this distinction."
  • Inclusion is a problem. As of 2016, less than 20% of workers in clean energy production and efficiency were women. African Americans have a smaller share of jobs in those 2 sectors than in the overall economy, although it's above the national average in environmental management.

What's next: The report lays out recommendations — some built on what's already happening — for how to make these industries more inclusive, train younger people, and generally help policymakers, educational institutions and businesses prepare the workforce. These include...

  • "Modernizing and emphasizing" energy science curricula at all schooling levels, such as programs now available for 2-year associates' degrees in efficiency and renewables.
  • Regional initiatives and public-private collaboration on job training and aligning education with local clean energy industries.
  • Expanded efforts to reach underrepresented workers and students for recruitment and training. For instance, they cite the tech-focused Black Girls Code program as a model.

The bottom line: “This is a very accessible blue/green collar sector in many respects — widely distributed in both red and blue places, accessible to an inordinate number of people who don’t have a college degree, and a genuine opportunity for all kinds of workers,” co-author Mark Muro said.

  • But Muro, an expert in industrial transitions, also told Axios: “We won’t just naturally get a more diverse clean energy workforce. It is going to require active effort.”
2. Visualizing clean jobs and education
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Adapted from Brookings; Note: Lines created with linear regression; Chart: Axios Visuals

Let's spend a couple more moments with the Brookings report and its interesting data.

The big picture: The chart above visualizes the pay levels for workers without college degrees.

  • "Even with lower levels of educational attainment ... clean energy economy workers still earn competitive wages," the report states.
  • "This is clear visual evidence of the higher income floor for clean energy economy workers," it notes.

But, but, but: The clean energy sector defies blanket characterization when it comes to education levels needed.

  • For instance, while over half of wind turbine technician jobs are filled by people without college degrees, other segments of the low-carbon economy, like engineering, typically require a 4-year degree or more.
3. Report: DOE's Rick Perry eyes the exit

Energy Secretary Rick Perry is preparing to step down and he's "finalizing the terms and timing of his departure," Bloomberg News reported Wednesday night, citing 2 people familiar with the plans.

But, but, but: Department of Energy spokesperson Shaylyn Hynes denied the report.

  • “There is no truth that Secretary Perry is departing the Administration any time soon. He is happy where he is serving President Trump and leading the Department of Energy," she said in a statement.

Where it stands: The former Texas governor's exit isn't imminent and he still hadn't made up his mind, but he's been seriously considering his exit for weeks, Bloomberg reported.

Quick take: Perry occupies an unusual spot in President Trump’s cabinet.

  • He’s avoided the types of controversies that sped departures of several agency heads.
  • Perry appears to have remained in Trump’s good graces, also unlike many other cabinet chiefs.
  • He hasn’t faced the same level of attacks from Capitol Hill Democrats as some others either.

The big picture: On policy, he’s an energetic booster for the country’s oil, gas, coal and nuclear sectors, yet has distanced himself from White House proposals to deeply slash renewable energy R&D and is a cheerleader for DOE’s research labs.

  • But, he's come up short thus far in one of his highest-profile and most controversial goals, which is finding ways to directly support economically struggling coal-fired and nuclear power plants that are at risk of shutting down.
4. U.S. Chamber alters its tone on climate

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is subtly shifting its position on climate change, Axios' Amy Harder reports.

Driving the news: The chamber recently updated its website with new language on addressing climate change, including a statement stronger than anything the group has said before: “Inaction is not an option.”

  • The group last week also released what it dubbed an energy and climate agenda, focused on clean-energy innovation.

Why it matters: As America's biggest trade group representing business, the chamber gives voice to the common denominator position on a host of issues, including climate change. Official statements like this hold more weight.

But, but, but: It's unclear whether this shift changes its long-held opposition to most regulations, which have been the main avenue of federal climate policy to date.

Go deeper

5. Trump's Iran stance vs. crude market realities
Ships at Iran's Port of Kharg Island Oil Terminal. Photo: Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Trump administration must decide by May 2 whether to continue sanctions waivers that allow several nations to keep buying Iranian oil — a decision with huge implications for Washington’s Iran strategy and the market, Axios Expert Voices contributors Robert Johnston and Henry Rome write.

The big picture: Since withdrawing from the nuclear deal last May, the U.S. has steadily ratcheted up economic and political pressure on Iran.

  • The core component of the “maximum pressure” strategy is reducing the Islamic Republic's oil exports, which provide provide a third of government revenues.

Background: U.S. sanctions require all purchasers of Iranian oil to “significantly reduce” their purchases every 6 months, with a stated goal of driving Iranian exports to zero.

  • But in November the administration granted waivers that allow eight countries to continue importing Iranian crude: China, India, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Greece and Italy.

What's next: The U.S. will not be able to convince all oil importers to give up on Iran.

  • China and India, by far its biggest oil buyers, have strategic relationships with Iran. The U.S. is unlikely to threaten sanctions against Chinese or Indian oil refiners or banks.
  • And the loss of Iranian barrels would lead to a significant spike in oil prices.

Read more

Both at Eurasia Group, Johnston is the managing director for global energy and natural resources and Rome is an Iran analyst.

6. On my screen: climate, cars, offshore drilling

Banks and carbon: Per Bloomberg, "With insurers shouldering a record $160 billion in climate-related losses from last year alone, a group including 30 central banks called for measures to spur green finance and better assessment of the risks from higher global temperatures."

  • The U.S. Federal Reserve, however, is not part of the Network for Greening the Financial System initiative.
  • Click here to download the full report or a summary.

Offshore drilling: Oil & Gas Journal reports, "Units of ExxonMobil Corp., Equinor, and Wintershall were among the companies that submitted winning bids in Argentina’s Apr. 16 licensing round — the first open bid round for Argentinean offshore acreage in more than 20 years — where 38 blocks were on offer, 18 of which were licensed."

Crude markets: Via Reuters, "Much of the new crude coming from the top U.S. shale field is so light that it is starting to affect pricing for the region’s oil, producers attending an energy conference this week said."

  • Producers may need to offer discounts of $1–$2 per barrel to refiners that use heavier grades, the story notes.

Electric vehicles: CNBC reports on Toyota models and concepts on display at the Shanghai Auto Show, including the Rhombus concept electric car, which the automaker touts in a release as a model that aims to "suit the values and lifestyles of drivers born after 1990."

Ben GemanAmy Harder