No, this isn’t a knock knock joke. It’s an important question that probably isn’t asked often enough, because it illustrates how investing in green energy is often good for some of the country’s older, struggling industries too.

The answer, according to the American Wind Energy Association, is that it takes somewhere in the range of 200 to 230 tons of steel to make a single wind turbine. Of course, it also takes many turbines to make a wind farm, and many wind farms for wind power to get to the point where it is significantly contributing to the country’s energy needs. Start doing some math and it’s a substantial amount for an industry that was once a symbol of U.S. industrial strength but could use a little help today.

Indeed, some of the most active wind power companies and turbine manufacturers in the country are making use of this synergy in ways that are both practical and symbolic. Steel Winds is building a large wind plant on a former Bethlehem Steel site in New York state, with a pledge to help turn the country’s rust belt into a “wind belt.” And as this story notes, some recently laid-off steel workers have already found new work applying their skills to the manufacture of wind turbines.

But it’s not simply that it takes steel to make wind power, or that some workers’ skills appear to be pretty transferable from one old industry to another one that is up-and-coming. On a broader level, when you understand just how weighty those wind turbines towering gracefully in the sky really are, you see that much of the debate over traditional vs. new industry, or power sources is misguided. When the country chooses to invest in new sources of energy, it need not be seen as a move to abandon traditional sources of energy.

So-called green energy sources may be generating power in relatively new ways, but they remain dependent on some standard industrial products like steel, that are also used throughout the country’s oil refineries and production sites. From a power perspective, CEA has long promoted a holistic view that recognizes all the different sources that are needed to create a strong domestic energy industry.

At a time when the country is working to restore its manufacturing base, we should not be so distracted by distinctions between old and new, green or traditional. From steel to wind, many of these industries have a lot more in common than you might think.