While there are nuances to the claim made in this headline, it is technically true since Tesla announced that it turned a profit of $22 million last quarter while the US oil industry managed to lose $67 billion last year due to its inability to stomach lower gas prices, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
That’s something to consider in this new political climate following the election of Donald Trump.
Notwithstanding any potential ulterior motives to favor fossil fuels or the fact that Trump doesn’t believe in man-made climate change, it’s important for the upcoming new Trump administration and GOP-controlled Washington to start looking at Tesla and other upcoming cleantech ventures as important middle-class American job creators and sustainable businesses.
One of Trump’s main actions to create American jobs is to “lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars’ worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal,” according to his own “contract with American voters” and as part of his plan for his first 100 days in office.
Again, we are not going into the impact it will have on the climate in part because of how scary it is. Try to get the amount of CO2 that those fossil-fuel reserves will release in the atmosphere out of your head (if you can) and focus on the jobs. That’s supposedly how he won the election in the rust belt and coal country after all.
While Trump’s deregulation of the oil and gas industry could certainly recreate jobs, we have to keep in mind that more investments don’t represent a guarantee that the companies will be able to handle price slumps like the one we saw last year and continues now without more government subsidies.
Coal and Natural Gas are rapidly becoming less cost competitive to Wind and Solar power.
But deregulation is not all Trump plans to do for the oil and gas industry – again with the goal of creating jobs. He also plans to slow down the competition from renewable energy by slashing federal research and development, subsidies for solar and wind, and any other climate programs. He also plans to gut the EPA and head it with a climate science denier.
When the US oil industry lost $67 billion in 2015, it also slashed close to 100,000 jobs during the same period. All the while, more Americans now work in the solar industry than the extraction of oil, gas, or coal.
One of the main examples Trump has been using is Ford moving jobs from Michigan to Mexico in order to be more competitive. Since his election, GM also announced job cuts.
On the other hand, Tesla has been adding jobs with now over 18,000 employees worldwide and the majority are in the US. At the Fremont factory alone, Tesla employs over 6,000 people and it plans to bring that number up to 9,000 to support its latest expansion plans.
The electric automaker is also investing in the Gigafactory in Nevada, where it plans to employ over 6,000 workers.
If job creation (and not just rewarding fossil fuel political donors) is really the true goal of the new US political leadership, maybe they should think twice about introducing new policies that could slow the momentum of clean technologies in favor of fossil fuels. Instead, they should focus on introducing a level playing field.
We could argue about the best way to do that, but wouldn’t it be simplest to put an end to all subsidies, including the trillions of dollars worth of subsidies going to the fossil fuel industry?