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Workforce in Colorado may look dramatically different with shift to a new energy economy

Workforce may look dramatically different with shift to green energy economy
Workforce may look dramatically different with shift to green energy economy 03:20

Following the appearance of Vice President Kamala Harris in Colorado, where she talked about a shift to a green energy economy and the Inflation Reduction Act, Coloradans were thinking about what the money will mean. One big part is new jobs.

The IRA has billions for the expansion projects to fight climate change.

Ahead of the legislation, D.R. Richardson and a partner were fortunate to create a company where the work being done fits right in.

"It's working well. We are having a hard time keeping up with demand. The Inflation Reduction Act has been a massive tailwind for us," he said.

Elephant Energy combines work that for the most part a few years ago was not being done.

"We electrify homes with heat pumps, heat pump water heaters, we do induction wiring. We do EV chargers, we insulation, weatherization to make homes a little bit more comfortable and a little bit easier to electrify."

They started with two people. They are up to 13.

"From a climate perspective we need to electrify every home in here Colorado over the next 30 years. That's not going to happen with the existing workforce that we have."

That, he believes, will mean decades of blue collar jobs.

"Simplest way to think about it is a furnace replacement can be done with about half the labor of a heat pump."

There are more jobs as homes electrify as well.

"I think there's a whole set of trades and jobs that will need to be created around electrifying homes... They are very well paying jobs. Electricians, HVAC contractors can make six figures or more."

That may be one way of replacing some of the blue collar manufacturing jobs lost in the country in recent decades.

Colorado already has a significant energy industry in oil and gas.

"So it's not a matter of an energy transition. For the history of mankind we've never had an energy transition. What we do is we add more and better and more reliable fuels to the mix," said Dan Haley, President and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

"I don't believe it's doom and gloom for the oil and gas industry. We're going to always be part of the energy mix."

While there appears to be nothing in the Inflation Reduction Act to benefit the industry, he believes oil and gas works well with the new energy economy. And his industry will not be going away as natural gas continues to be a big part of power generation.

"The federal government predicts that by 2050, we'll be using more natural gas than we use today."

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