WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — In a busy world with our busy lives, trends can slip by us easily until they’re finally right there and too obvious to ignore.

For some, that’s what’s going on with our transition from “dirty jobs” to “cleaner jobs.”

Wake Forest University professor Mark Curtis keeps an eye on those things for us and says the transition has been going on for a while.

“The research I’m doing is to try to think about what that transition away from fossil fuels towards renewables is going to mean for workers, specifically,” Curtis said. “What types of jobs are available? What types of jobs are going to be lost? What regions of the country are going to be hit hardest by this? Which regions of the country might be situated to grow from this?”

In Curtis’ new academic paper on the subject “Workers and the Green Energy Transition” he says it’s been driven by a combination of consumer demand and government policy.

“It’s a real mix between both government and corporations, and I think that corporations are now seeing that renewable energy really is the future both in terms of … cost … It’s going to be cheaper,” Curtis said. “If you’re an electrical utility, you’re trying to think about … how am I going to produce my future electricity? Renewables are going to be cheaper if you’re starting from right now.”

Curtis largely credits the subsidies for renewable energy that were in the Inflation Reduction Act that President Biden got passed a few years ago. Curtis says that was the temporary boost the industry needed to make the investments on the private sector side. 

He sees renewables as our future, but it may not be 100% of our energy and won’t be in the next few years.

“I don’t think this is a surprise to anyone that the sun doesn’t shine all the time,” Curtis said. “We may need to have some amount of fossil fuels on the grid, but when you think about hydro-electric, when you think about wind and when you think about solar, there can be significant amounts of electricity that’s going to be generated from those sources … I think that we may still need to have some amount of fossil fuels. I don’t know if fossil fuels may not go away entirely, but I think that the amount of renewable electricity generation is going to be a very, very significant source.”

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There is a concept within capitalism called Creative Destruction which refers to how a dynamic economy is both creating and destroying jobs all the time.

“As with any sort of economic transition, there are going to be winners and losers from this,” Curtis said. “And one of the big things that we need to be thinking about is both who is poised to win, what sorts of skills can we perhaps provide workers to make sure that they’re situated to benefit from these jobs in the future and how our businesses take advantage of this as well, so that this is a good thing for both workers and businesses.”

See more on this in this edition of The Buckley Report.