The article in Forbes reports:
Hoffman summarizes his article by writing, “If a primary national goal is to create jobs in the energy sector, investing in renewable energy is considerably more effective than investing in fossil fuels.” Supporting his argument, Hoffman writes, “Solar Foundation data indicated that in 2016 the U.S. solar industry (8,600 companies) employed 260,000 workers.”
Comparing solar industry jobs to conventional energy jobs, Hoffman writes, “How do these numbers compare with numbers in the fossil fuel industries? In 2015 workers employed directly in oil and natural gas extraction numbered about 187,000.”
Well, not so fast. When you look at how these numbers were calculated, you see a very different picture.
For solar jobs, Hoffman references data reported by the solar power industry. I looked up and found the Solar Foundation paper Hoffman references. What Hoffman defines as “workers” who are “employed” by the U.S. solar industry are actually defined by the Solar Foundation as jobs which the solar industry “supports.” The Solar Foundation liberally defines jobs “supported” by the solar power industry as to include every component on the solar industry chain, plus additional jobs like lawyers, lobbyists, public relations professionals, government employees overseeing the solar power industry, permitting officers, plumbers, electricians, salesmen, land acquisition specialists, and financiers.
For natural gas jobs, by comparison, Hoffman limits his definition to “workers employed directly in oil and natural gas extraction.” Hoffman does not include lawyers, lobbyists, public relations professionals, government oversight employees, permitting officers, plumbers, electricians, salesmen, land acquisition specialists, and financiers, as he does for the solar power industry. Even more importantly, he does not include construction workers who build natural gas power plants, workers who operate natural gas power plants, workers who survey and find natural gas deposits, workers who build equipment for natural gas power plants, etc.
Further proof that you can make statistics prove anything you want them to as long as you carefully choose the numbers you use.
The article at Forbes concludes:
Public policy officials, do not be duped. The next time somebody claims wind and solar power create more jobs than natural gas and other conventional energy sources, ask them for specific definitions and parameters of the job numbers cited. If they falsely claim the definitions and parameters are similar, call them on it. If they truthfully answer that the definitions and parameters do not match up, ask them why they are presenting deliberately misleading data.
This is another reason consumers of news need to be very skeptical of anything they read–any data can to skewed to reach the desired conclusion.