Back on August 10 I blogged about a new study from the Harvard Business Review that looked at the cost of retraining coal miners to work in solar energy. I quoted the study's conclusion:
The results of the study show that a relatively minor investment ($180 million to $1.8 billion, based on best and worst case scenarios) in retraining would allow the vast majority of U.S. coal workers to switch to solar-related positions.
This morning, reporter Casey Junkins in the Wheeling Intelligencer cherry-picked and misrepresented this same study to further the paper's pro-coal and anti-solar agenda. Here's the headline for the article:
Solar Training to Cost $1.8B
The first paragraph tells us:
A new study featured in the Harvard Business Review finds it would cost as much as $1.8 billion to retrain the “vast majority” of U.S. coal miners to work in the solar power industry, with $475 million of this required in West Virginia.
No, the study did not say that the training would cost $1.8 billion as the headline states. The study considered low and high estimates for best and worst case scenarios. Here is what Table 1 in the study tells us about cost:
best case scenario - from $180 to $650 million
worst case scenario - from $540 million to $1.8 billion
And so the cost, as documented in the study, could be anywhere from $180 million to $1.8 billion which is what the conclusion of the study claims.
Junkins did the same thing to the cost of retraining West Virginia miners when he put the figure at $475 million. From the study itself:
best WV case scenario - from $45 to $165 million
worst WV case scenario - from $135 to $475 million
Thus the cost is somewhere between $45 and 475 million.
In both cases, Junkins took the highest estimates from the worst case scenario and claimed those figures as the study's conclusion.
It doesn't end there. The sub-heading under the headline tells us:
Study: Retraining miners not cheap
That conclusion cannot be found anywhere in the study. Instead the study appears to be concluding just the opposite:
Even if completely subsidized by the federal government these figures (ranging from $180 million to $1.87 billion) would only amount to 0.0052% and 0.0543% of the U.S. federal budget, respectfully.
And again, from the study's abstract:
The results show that a relatively minor investment in retraining would allow the vast majority of coal workers to switch to PV-related positions even in the event of the elimination of the coal industry.
Finally (and I realize this is minor point but it does demonstrate the extent to which the article is slanted), Junkins claims that the study's author admitted that "many solar-related engineering positions call for up to a four-year degree." No, what the author admitted was that
Some solar-related engineering positions call for up to a four-year university degree.
There is a difference between how a reader will react to "many" rather than "some." If the article was fair otherwise, the quoting error could be written off as a simple mistake. But the statistics that are taken from the original study are cherry-picked to mislead the reader and the assertion that the study's conclusion that "retraining miners not cheap" is in no way supported by the study. Neither of these were accidents. Nor are the irrelevant and unsubstantiated quotes from West Virginia Coal Association Bill Raney included in the article. (Did you know there's at least 200 years of coal left to mine?)
This article is a deliberate attempt to mislead the reader on the cost of retraining miners; the article's purpose is not to inform the reader about the cost of transitioning, its purpose is to propagandize for the fossil fuel industry.