Five and a half.
That’s the percentage of full- and part-time jobs in the U.S. economy attributable directly and indirectly to fossil fuels—a massive number, just under eleven million in total.
Those figures are from a timely report demonstrating just how much the U.S. benefits from fossil fuel-related employment—and how much it stands to potentially lose a green-new-deal policies loom on the horizon.
The analysis by consulting firm PwC carried out for the American Petroleum Institute found that the oil and natural gas industry’s “direct, indirect, and induced impacts” on the U.S. economy “amounted to 10.8 million full-time and part-time jobs and accounted for 5.4 percent of total U.S. employment in 2021.”
The industry’s “total impact on labor income,” meanwhile, was valued at “$908.7 billion, or 6.4 percent of the U.S. national labor income in 2021,” while the total impact on US GDP the same year was “nearly $1.8 trillion, accounting for 7.6 percent of the national total.”
Those economic benefits face an uncertain future as the Biden administration pushes aggressive green-energy policies that directly target fossil fuels. Critics say these anti-fossil-fuel measures also put the reliability of the U.S. electric grid at risk.
New rules by the Environmental Protection Agency, for instance, will soon begin mandating gargantuan emissions reductions from U.S. power plants, with experts warning of potential brownouts if less reliable sources like wind and solar can’t meet demand.
It could also threaten millions of U.S. jobs. Stephanie Wissman, the executive director of the American Petroleum Institute’s Pennsylvania branch, said U.S. energy regulation significantly hampers the ability of the industry to create even more employment.
“Job growth in any sector depends upon reforming our onerous regulatory processes,” she said. “Getting a project through a federal environmental review – one hurdle among many – now takes an average of 4.5 years.”
“As global energy demand is projected to increase, policies should support American energy and infrastructure development and the millions of skilled workers across the country who produce and deliver the energy that powers our everyday lives,” she added.
“What’s needed now is comprehensive permitting reform.”
Advocates of energy reform have argued that policymakers can both move the energy grid to renewable fuels while providing relief for workers thrown out of employment due to industry disruptions. Robert Routh, a public policy and regulatory attorney for the Philadelphia-based Clean Air Council, pointed to a recent state-level proposal to create an “Energy Communities Trust Fund” to address those concerns.
That measure, he said, would create grant programs for “workforce development and worker training; supplemental unemployment compensation for displaced energy workers; and funding to school districts or municipalities affected by the closure of an energy facility.”
Whether or not politicians are capable of patching the job losses from green energy policies remains to be seen. Government attempts to compensate for lost economic activity often come up woefully short, as the U.S. saw during the COVID crisis when the federal government attempted to make up for billions and billions of dollars in lost economic activity by giving Americans payments ranging from $600 to $1,400.
Fossil fuels, of course, remain firmly embedded in the complex web of the U.S. economy. PwC noted that oil and natural gas exploration and production involve, variously, the mining sector, the manufacturing sector, the transportation sector, the utilities sector, and the wholesale and retail trade sectors.
Joe Trotter with the American Legislative Exchange Council said policymakers must tread carefully when looking to radically change something as critical and as massive as the U.S. energy industry.
“The hardworking folks that keep the lights on for America and our allies have families they need to feed and provide for every single day,” he said, “so any attempt at transitioning the workforce needs to be absolutely seamless, or else workers and their dependents will suffer.”