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Jobs in U.S. energy sector rose in 2021, work in low-carbon vehicles leads

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Jobs in the U.S. energy business rose 4% last year, at a faster clip than the country's overall private sector, led by work in low-carbon vehicles, while positions in fossil fuels fell as the pandemic cut demand, the Department of Energy said on Tuesday.

The U.S. Energy and Employment Report showed employment in manufacturing of cleaner vehicles and components -- whether hybrid electric, full battery electric, plug-in hybrid, or hydrogen fuel cell -- rose about 64,500 or about 25% from last year. Overall jobs in motor vehicles rose 228,100, up 9.8%, it said.

Meanwhile, employment in petroleum fuels fell about 31,600, or 6.4%, from last year as the COVID-19 pandemic reduced demand.

The report covered the job picture before Russia's Feb. 24, 2022 invasion of Ukraine and rising fuel demand spurred gasoline prices to record levels and pushed the administration of President Joe Biden to plead with oil companies to boost oil drilling and refinery output.

It was also before the implementation of billions of dollars in subsidies and investments in last year's infrastructure law for energy efficiency, nuclear power, and the building of hubs for hydrogen, a gas that can be mixed with natural gas or used in fuel cell vehicles.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told reporters the report showed "good news to build on" to reach Biden's clean energy goals, including decarbonizing the economy by 2050, even though the window is narrowing for Congress to pass further climate legislation. "We're going to need more, more especially clean energy tax credits from Congress if we're going to turbo-charge this progress and create millions more good paying, high quality jobs," Granholm said.

Jobs in solar energy rose about 17,500 or about 5.4%, while wind power jobs rose about 3,350, or 2.9%, the report said.

About 10% of workers in energy were unionized in 2021, compared to 6% in the overall private sector, it said. The report did not compare the unionization figures to last year as its methodology had changed, Energy Department officials told reporters.

Granholm said jobs in the U.S. oil business should rise in 2022 as drillers produce more to meet demand as the pandemic eases and as Russia's invasion removes petroleum from global markets.

"We want to see an increase in supply," Granholm said about petroleum. "But ultimately, most project that there will be a demand curve that comes down and that this transition (to cleaner energy) will happen," she said.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

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