Would switching to clean energy cause job losses? Nope–millions more.
Rewiring America takes on the American Petroleum Institute
The American Petroleum Institute, a national trade group representing some 600 oil and gas members, recently released a study claiming that a ban on fracking in 2021 would cause job losses reaching nearly 1 million in 2022. Rewiring America, a non-profit dedicated to electrifying everything to jump-start the economy and address climate change, has released a jobs report that shows that in fact a transition to electricity backed by renewable energy will result in 25 million new, good-paying jobs.
Rewiring America responds to the API’s claims, as reported by Fox Business, that banning fracking will hurt the economy.
Fox: “It [banning fracking] could also derail U.S. energy independence, a cornerstone of the Trump administration, which has accused Biden of wanting to “outlaw” American energy sources.”
RA: The question is not whether fracking is better than importing fossil fuels when it comes to the relatively narrow question of energy independence. That assertion is not in serious dispute, just as the contributions of gas and other fossil fuels to exacerbated climate change risks is not something serious people disagree about. The real question is what’s the best strategy for minimizing U.S. energy dependence while at the same time addressing climate change and maximizing economic opportunities? On that score, clean energy wins hands down. Not only does it promote energy independence and directly address climate change, but it creates more jobs, and more stable energy prices further into the future. The volatility of oil and gas prices is one of the principal causes of distress in the energy jobs sector. Clean energy generation and electrification: solar, wind, nuclear, create stable and predictable energy prices into the future and reliable and bankable jobs in installation and maintenance that won’t be subject to global (fossil) energy price changes.
Fox: “The United States has experienced essentially a generational shift in energy security, economic security, employment and CO2 emission reductions as a result of the shale revolution.”
RA: One does not have to disparage fracking to realize that America could experience a much larger generational shift in energy security that is far less damaging to the environment and that will save households money. On the last point, for instance, API ignores entirely the cost savings associated with a switch to electric machinery. Electric vehicles have a far lower operational cost per mile than gasoline vehicles. Electrically driven heat pumps use 1/3rd of the energy of their natural gas equivalents and are now cost effective in most retail and commercial energy markets. These cost savings will lead consumer spending that will create far more jobs than any losses in the fossil industry. And, of course, clean machines mitigate the risks of floods, wildfires, heat waves, or the health consequences of breathing emissions from gas stoves, hot water heaters, and exhaust pipes.
Fox: “A ban that would begin in 2021 would cause the biggest hit to employment in its first two years with job losses reaching nearly 1 million in 2022.”
RA: The article’s doom and gloom forecast is based on a false assumption that Vice President Biden is proposing a full-on ban of all fracking in 2021. That’s not true. Either way, though, API’s projections simply can’t withstand scrutiny. Aggressive electrification of transportation and building heat would create tens of millions of jobs, and in every zip code. As is already the case, the majority of nuclear and renewable electricity is generated in the same states that generate most of our fossil fuels such that new jobs would be located by and large where these supposed job losses will occur. By focusing solely — and disingenuously — on the potential “loss” side of the equation, API ignores the overwhelming benefits associated with the transition. One doesn’t credibly evaluate any proposed endeavor by looking solely at the potential costs without weighing them against the associated gains.
Moreover, we can’t and won’t turn off natural gas overnight. Instead it will be phased out over the next 20 years. It is overly dramatic and misleading to represent a fracking ban as a huge, immediate jobs killer. Moreover, API ignores the opportunity for a boom in manufacturing jobs in the U.S. if we choose to let go of the past and meet the future head on with a commitment to making the equipment of the world’s future energy supplies in the U.S. America’s clean energy transition has already started and we already know that it creates and sustains more and better paying jobs than the fossil fuel industry it is replacing.
Fox: “The plan would result in a total of 417,000 fewer jobs by 2030 as other jobs would be created elsewhere in the economy, and a $700 billion hit to U.S. gross domestic product.”
RA:See above. Plus, aggressive electrification would create tens of millions of (net new) jobs and, if we implement it with the same level of commitment that we did fracking, it would save every household a few thousands of dollars and hundreds of billions across the nation.
Fox: “Fracking is the process of injecting water into shale rock at high pressure to extract natural gas, and is the “single most important technology in America’s energy security and in our reduction of CO2 emissions over the past 10 years,” [Frank Macchiarola, senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs at the American Petroleum Institute] said. “Not a single technology has done more to reduce carbon emissions than hydraulic fracturing. That’s fact.”
RA:This is sophistry. Whatever effects fracking has had in the past has no bearing on its relative value vs a better option in the future. Clean energy is better for all the reasons discussed above. Moreover, API’s claims of past glory are based on selective evidence as they ignore the significant fugitive emissions of methane from fracking by focusing only on carbon emissions reduced by substituting natural gas for coal in the electricity generation sector. Many experts believe that these CO4 emissions may exceed whatever CO2 savings can be theoretically attributed to fracking versus coal, even if one sets aside the risks fracking poses to clean drinking water and air.