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Does wind power really provide more jobs than coal?

Earlier this week, Fortune's eco-blog, Green Wombat, ran a story under the headline, "Wind jobs outstrip the coal industry."

By Blogger for The Christian Science Monitor / January 31, 2009

A wind turbine blade is unveiled during the opening of the Vestas blade factory in Windsor, Colo., Wednesday, March 5, 2008.

Jack Dempsey/AP/FILE

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Earlier this week, Fortune's eco-blog, Green Wombat, ran a story under the headline, "Wind jobs outstrip the coal industry."

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Blogger Todd Woody cites new report from the American Wind Energy Association that about 85,000 people are now employed by the wind power industry, up from 50,000 a year ago. Mr. Woody then says that "the coal industry employs about 81,000 workers," citing a 2007 report from the Department of Energy.

Woody calls this comparison "a talking point in the green jobs debate."

The story was republished on the Huffington Post, cited by Mother Jones magazine, and has been bouncing around the green blogosphere for the past few days.

But it's a bogus comparison. According to the wind energy report, those 85,000 jobs in wind power are as "varied as turbine component manufacturing, construction and installation of wind turbines, wind turbine operations and maintenance, legal and marketing services, and more."  The 81,000 coal jobs counted by the Department of Energy are only miners. Their figure excludes those who haul the coal around the country, as well as those who work in coal power plants.

To be fair,  Woody's lede does say that "[t]he wind industry now employs more people than coal mining in the United States." But his story then immediately abandons this distinction, and then goes on to characterize those 81,000 jobs as comprising the total employment of the coal industry.

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