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Report: Houston recognized in the top 5 cities for green jobs

Houston ranks in the top five cities for green jobs, which pay on average 21 percent more than other jobs. Photo via Getty Images

Green jobs are generating more green — aka money — for workers in the Houston area.

Personal finance website SmartAsset recently ranked the Houston metro area as the fifth best place in the U.S. for green jobs, which pay an average of 21 percent more than other jobs. The SmartAsset study found that 2.23 percent of workers in the Houston area hold down jobs classified as “green.”

“Houston is known as being an energy hub, especially for oil. So this metro area ranking fifth may surprise some people. However, the green industry is pretty big around Houston, too,” says SmartAsset.

Topping the SmartAsset list is Dallas, followed by Denver; Newark, New Jersey; Oakland, California; and Houston.

The release of the SmartAsset study preceded a new report from the U.S. Department of Energy showing Texas added slightly more than 5,100 jobs in clean energy from 2021 to 2022. That’s a gain of 3.5 percent. Last year, Texas boasted a little over 396,000 jobs in the clean energy sector, the report says.

In the energy sector as a whole, Texas added the most jobs (nearly 51,000) of any state from 2021 to 2022, followed by California (almost 21,200), and Pennsylvania (nearly 15,200), according to the DOE report.

To determine the best places for green jobs, SmartAsset crunched data for the 50 largest U.S. metro areas that included the percentage of workers holding down green jobs, the average earnings for green jobs, and the average green worker’s earnings compared with the average worker’s earnings.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics supplies two definitions for green jobs:

  • Jobs in businesses that provide goods or provide services benefiting the environment or conserving natural resources.
  • Jobs in which workers’ duties involve making their employers’ processes more environmentally friendly.

The bureau lists these as the 10 highest-paying green jobs (followed by the median annual pay in 2021):

  • Biochemist or biophysicist, $102,270
  • Materials scientist, $100,090
  • Environmental engineer, $96,820
  • Atmospheric scientist, $94,570
  • Hydrologist, $84,030
  • Geoscientist, $83,680
  • Chemist, $79,430
  • Microbiologist, $79,260
  • Environmental scientist, $76,530
  • Conversation scientist, $63,750

Even though many green jobs in the U.S. are in renewable energy, that sector remains smaller than the traditional oil and gas industry, according to a recent report from career website LinkedIn. However, the growth of U.S. job postings in renewable energy (69 percent) surpassed the growth of job postings in the oil and gas industry (57) during the first three months of 2023 compared with the same period in 2022.

Globally, the growing demand for green-job skills is “outpacing the increase in supply, raising the prospect of an imminent green skills shortage,” the LinkedIn report says.

Among the sectors seeking workers with those skills are solar and wind power. Texas tallied almost 11,800 solar energy jobs and nearly 25,500 wind energy jobs in 2021, according to a DOE report.

Some observers believe Texas is positioned to become the world’s clean energy capital — and home to thousands more green jobs — with Houston poised to lead the way.

“Industry leaders believe the [Houston] region’s relatively high concentration of engineering talent, a solid base of support services for complex, large-scale offshore and onshore drilling projects, and legacy oil and gas infrastructure can be leveraged to assist in the energy transition and decarbonization,” the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas says in a 2022 report.

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A View From HETI

A View From UH

A Rice University professor studied the Earth's carbon cycle in the Rio Madre de Dios to shed light on current climate conditions. Photo courtesy of Mark Torres/Rice University

Carbon cycles through Earth, its inhabitants, and its atmosphere on a regular basis, but not much research has been done on that process and qualifying it — until now.

In a recent study of a river system extending from the Peruvian Andes to the Amazon floodplains, Rice University’s Mark Torres and collaborators from five institutions proved that that high rates of carbon breakdown persist from mountaintop to floodplain.

“The purpose of this research was to quantify the rate at which Earth naturally releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and find out whether this process varies across different geographic locations,” Torres says in a news release.

Torres published his findings in a study published in PNAS, explaining how they used rhenium — a silvery-gray, heavy transition metal — as a proxy for carbon. The research into the Earth’s natural, pre-anthropogenic carbon cycle stands to benefit humanity by providing valuable insight to current climate challenges.

“This research used a newly-developed technique pioneered by Robert Hilton and Mathieu Dellinger that relies on a trace element — rhenium — that’s incorporated in fossil organic matter,” Torres says. “As plankton die and sink to the bottom of the ocean, that dead carbon becomes chemically reactive in a way that adds rhenium to it.”

The research was done in the Rio Madre de Dios basin and supported by funding from a European Research Council Starting Grant, the European Union COFUND/Durham Junior Research Fellowship, and the National Science Foundation.

“I’m very excited about this tool,” Torres said. “Rice students have deployed this same method in our lab here, so now we can make this kind of measurement and apply it at other sites. In fact, as part of current research funded by the National Science Foundation, we are applying this technique in Southern California to learn how tectonics and climate influence the breakdown of fossil carbon.”

Torres also received a three-year grant from the Department of Energy to study soil for carbon storage earlier this year.

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