DOE report shows biofuel, bioenergy employment increased in 2021

By Erin Voegele | July 05, 2022

The U.S. Department of Energy on June 28 released its 2022 U.S. Energy and Employment Report, which includes new data on employment in the biofuels and bioenergy sectors. In general, employment in these sectors was up when compared to 2020.

According to the report, bioenergy for power generation employed 12,388 workers in 2021, up 349 workers or 2.9 percent when compared to the 12,039 workers employed in 2020. The sector employed 13,178 workers in 2019.

The 12,388 workers in the bioenergy industry last year included 5,241 in construction, 3,151 in professional services, 1,973 in utilities, 1,064 in manufacturing, 569 in wholesale trade and 389 classified as “other.” Jobs in all bioenergy categories were up when compared to 2020. According to the DOE, no bioenergy employers current expect job declines to take place this year.

Within the bioenergy for power generation sector, construction jobs were up 155 jobs, or 3 percent. Manufacturing jobs expanded by 3.9 percent, reaching 1,064 jobs last year.

Construction employers had the highest percentage of companies reporting hiring difficulty, with 94 percent of respondents saying it was “very difficult” or “somewhat difficult” to find employees. The vast majority of other bioenergy job industries reported challenging hiring conditions as well.  

An estimated 11 percent of bioenergy workers are covered by a union or project labor agreement, which is higher than the national average of 6 percent. Workers in the bioenergy segment are disproportionately male, according to the DOE, with 69 percent of workers being male, compared to 53 percent nationally. The percentage of non-white workers is 29 percent, higher than the national average of 22 percent. Approximately 11 percent of bioenergy workers are veterans, compared to 6 percent nationally.

The corn ethanol industry employed 34,592 workers last year, up 3.2 percent from 2020, but down when compared to the 34,866 workers who were employed in 2019. Employment in the sector is expected to increase by nearly 5 percent this year.

The 34,592 workers employed in corn ethanol last year included 15,818 in agriculture, 9,343 in manufacturing, 6,527 in wholesale trade, 2,800 in professional services and 102 classified as “other.” Jobs in all categories were up when compared to 2020.

Veterans make up 16 percent of the corn ethanol workforce, a higher concentration of veterans than any other energy technology and higher concentration than the 6 percent nationally. The percentage of union workers in corn ethanol is 7 percent, higher than the national average of 6 percent. Corn ethanol jobs are disproportionately held by males, with 69 percent compared to 53 percent nationally. The concentration of non-white workers is 21 percent, lower than the national average of 22 percent.

Within the corn ethanol sector, wholesale trade, distribution and transport employers had the highest percentage of companies reporting hiring difficulty, with 93 percent of respondents indicating it was “very difficult” or “somewhat difficult" to find employees.

Employment for “other biofuels,” a category that includes fuel made from biomatter that is not classified elsewhere in the USEER, including non-woody biomass, renewable diesel fuels, biodiesel fuels, waste fuels, and ethanol not produced from corn, was at 34,592 workers last year, up 1,086 or 3.2 percent when compared to 2020. Employment was at 34,866 workers in 2019.

The 34,592 jobs included under “other biofuels” includes 25,578 jobs in professional services, 7,179 jobs in wholesale trade, 3,709 jobs in manufacturing, 2,532 jobs agriculture, and 99 jobs classified as “other.” Jobs decreased only in agriculture, which lost 27 workers from 2020 to 2021.

Jobs in the “other biofuels” category were disproportionately held by males, with 66 percent compared to 53 percent nationally. The percentage of non-white workers is 26 percent, higher than the national average of 22 percent. Veterans accounted for 8 percent of “other biofuels” workers, up from the national average of 6 percent.

Under the category of “other biofuels,” wholesale trade had the highest percentage of companies reporting hiring difficulty, with 93 percent of respondents indicating it was “very difficult” or “somewhat difficult” to find employees. Only employers in manufacturing expect employment growth in 2022.

The DOE’s report also breaks down the category of “other biofuels” by component, reporting biodiesel fuels accounted for 5,539 jobs, waste fuels accounted for 4,457 jobs, renewable diesel accounted for 3,778 jobs and other biofuels accounted for 4,987 jobs.

The USEER also includes data on employment in wood biomass fuel for energy and cellulosic fuels, reporting that the category employed 33,898 workers in 2021, up 1,457 or 4.5 percent when compared to 2020. Employment in the category was at 33,426 in 2019.

The 33,898 wood biomass jobs included 18,490 in agriculture, 10,000 in professional services, 4,333 in manufacturing, 1,035 in wholesale trade and 41 jobs classified as “other.” Employment in all categories except “other” was up when compared to 2020. All woody biomass employers expect growth in 2022, with these expectations ranging from 0.1 percent to 7.6 percent.

In woody biomass, wholesale trade employers had the highest percentage of companies reporting hiring difficulty, with 93 percent of respondents indicating it was “very difficult” or “somewhat difficult” to find employees.

The woody biomass workforce tends to be disproportionately male, at 70 percent compared to 53 percent nationally. The portion of non-white workers is 17 percent, lower than the 22 percent national average. Approximately 10 percent of workers are covered by a union or project labor agreement in wood biomass, higher than the national average of 6 percent. The woody biomass workforce has the second highest proportion of veterans out of any energy technology at 15 percent, compared to the national average of 6 percent.

A full copy of the USEER can be downloaded from the DOE website

 

 
 
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