WBT was sent this article by a regular contributor. We would be interested in your comments.
This letter to coal miners etc is in my opinion an excellent example of how the environment movement needs to start interacting with the coal/gas/energy workers of today – to recognise their contributions and build a dialogue around transitioning. It makes engaging with those workers a high priority. It is the opposite of the “anti-coal” message that most of the environment movement espouses. And even this letter does not address the elephant in the room – namely that for Australia half of our production of coal goes to making steel, and at present there is no viable alternative. For example the 350.org aim is”We are standing up to the fossil fuel industry to stop all new coal, oil and gas projects and build clean energy for all” – .. regardless of whether the coal is thermal or steel-making coal.
You don’t know me, but I am one of the 250,000 solar energy workers in America, and I wanted to reach out and tell you that I appreciate the work that you do today and have done for the last 150 years. Perhaps you’re thinking I’m being sarcastic and that this letter is going to be a big Green Peace joke, but I assure you that there will be no jokes or snarks in this letter. This is truly a letter of appreciation and of hope for your success and our working together in the near future. Let me explain how and why.
First, you should know that I have never owned an electric car, and even if I owned a hybrid today, I would still be using at least some of your fuel-related energy work to get to work, fly in a jet plane and or take a ferry boat. Sincerely, I’m grateful for that.
Also, I live in an apartment building, and even here in California, at least half of my building’s electricity and most if not all of my power from past years have come from fossil fuels, including coal. My lights would not be on without your work. I do not have the skillset, and even if I did, I could not physically do the difficult and dangerous work that you have done for me and our nation. As much as I dislike the environmental effects of coal mining and coal plants, I have used your coal and natural gas energy work to my benefit. Once again, no joke, thank you for doing what I can’t do to keep the lights on.
Also for oil workers, thank you. I use plastic, and while I religiously recycle it, I realize and appreciate that the majority of the plastic products that I use are derived from oil. The computer that I’m typing on right now, my television, my blender, my soap dispenser, and much more are all the result of oil workers exploring, drilling, transporting, and processing oil into plastic.
As for natural gas, I heat my apartment and the apartment’s water with natural gas, and as much as I distrust the fracking process and how it uses land and water, I know my building’s owner isn’t going to go all solar electric heating, and I know that I’m going to continue taking hot showers, heating food, and staying warm thanks to natural gas and your work to deliver that gas to my apartment.
In short, the modern world that we know today would not exist without you, and I hope you’re proud of that. I am proud of you for getting us here today.
Saying thank you was easy. Giving you unwanted advice is much more difficult, but please hear me out.
Energy is changing, and it will affect your job soon. Politicians and your employers may try to slow the loss of your job, but these jobs will be lost eventually. How do I know? Energy history. Your coal and oil ancestors replaced whalers, cars replaced horses and buggies, and iPhones and cell tower workers replaced anyone who ever worked as a telephone booth manufacturer or repair person. Americans never stop innovating, and that includes innovating with how we produce and use energy.
I tell you this not to rub it in or to depress you. I tell you this because you are a valued resource to this nation. Just because solar and wind are the leading new sources of new power generation, please don’t think that other solar workers and I are your enemies. We don’t want you to be unemployed and struggling; in fact, just the opposite.
We want your employers to recognize that this clean energy transition is inevitable and rather than going bankrupt as some coal companies are doing today, we hope that they’ll aggressively start investing in new energy and future jobs for you.
You may be saying “But I’ve been a coal miner all my working life,” or “I’ve been an oil driller for ten years.” I understand how important that work has been to you and your families. You don’t want to have to change jobs, let alone get new training. I hear you, and I know you won’t have to today, but nobody can guarantee that next year or in the coming years.
At some point, this clean energy transition will happen, and it will happen far sooner than you expect. Utility solar and wind energy prices have plummeted for the past ten years. As we are a free market, the cheapest energy will win, making our U.S. renewable energy transition certain. No politician or businessperson, no matter how well-intentioned for your career, can stop the energy free market transition.
They and you can try to slow it down, true, but my hope is that you will instead accelerate it by voting for politicians who understand your worth today and who want to quickly help you to find and train for high paying jobs that you deserve for all that you’ve sacrificed for our modern world.
Once again, thank you again for the energy you’ve given me throughout my life. But do know that I’ve bought my last gasoline car and my utility is now automatically switching me to a rate plan with more renewable energy for a lower price than as I was paying before. I also have the option to get 100% renewable energy at the same rate that I was paying.
As much as America owes you great thanks for where we are today, the future is fast approaching, so I hope you’ll encourage fossil fuel companies and elected officials to plan for how you’ll be a part of it.
The author has been a solar marketing and communications worker and advocate since 2008.