Oil Companies are Investing in Renewable Energy: What does this Mean for the Job Market?

This article, published last week in the New York Times, takes a close look into the mind of a corporation and its decision-making mechanisms on the cusp of a new year and a new chapter in energy innovation (if an oil company can be said to have a mind).

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BP—once considered something of a pioneer in renewable energy revenue streams—lost this reputation along with some of its drive toward renewables after its giant Gulf Coast oil spill in 2010. But BP’s decision to explore wind and solar development now appears to be roaring back onto a list of company priorities. And as far as this assessment is concerned, the drive does not appear to be entirely motivated by public relations issues or even environmental concerns. In fact, BP seems driven primarily by the financial opportunities lying in this direction and the desire to gain a competitive advantage over other major oil producing firms that are expected to make similar moves in the years ahead.

If major oil producers, especially those headquartered in Europe, turn away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy, investing in wind turbines and buying smaller companies that make batteries or install solar panels, this will presumably be good news for the planet as well as company stockholders.

What kinds of changes will this bring to the U.S. job market? Are we ready for a gradual but steady transition from one source of energy to another, a transition that will need to begin in academia and carry over into all stages of the job market from entry level to senior positions? If we aren’t yet ready for one sector to dry up while new opportunities take shape on the horizon, what will we need to do in order to get there?

We’ll eventually have to put our heads together to accommodate a seismic labor and cultural shift that, by some estimates, is already underway. If you have ideas, plans, or policy positions regarding this subject, please share them with us! We’d love to hear from those with experience in fields like education, staffing, and labor relations.