And 40% of all oil industry jobs are minimum wage jobs at filling stations. Photo: Terry Robinson/CC BY SA
You may have seen new ad from the American Petroleum Institute touting how many people the oil and gas industry employs, and the benefits of fossil fuels in general. API claims that 9.2 million people are employed in this way. Well, the Checks and Balances Project ran the numbers and came up with a far less expansive and far less rosy picture of the oil and gas industry.
40% of Oil Industry Jobs Are Minimum Wage
Based on data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Check and Balances Project points out that there are actually only 2.2 million oil and gas industry jobs in the United States--and 40% of all these are actually minimum wage jobs at gas stations.
This analysis finds that the API study, done at its request by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, arrived at the higher figure by adding in an estimate of the number of jobs held by people in fields that support the oil and gas industry, not just those people directly employed. However the BLS figure actually already includes these jobs.
Checks and Balances says that in addition to this double counting, the PWC-derived jobs figure also includes (in C&B;'s words) "jobs created because people in their industry have jobs...for example the maid of a company CEO."
Number of People Employed Isn't A Reason To Keep Polluting
Apart from the inflating of jobs figures itself, it's important to question the logic employed by API here in touting the number of jobs in the oil and gas industry in an of itself as a reason to keep using fossil fuels.
Just because a lot of people are employed by a given industry isn't a reason to keep supporting an industry, if that industry does, in the balance, more social and environmental harm than good--which, again on the whole and given what we know about climate change in particular, is the case with fossil fuels.
That 2.2 million people are employed this way means instead that we have to be cognizant of ensuring that these people have new job opportunities in non-polluting industries -- the complexities and costs (financial and non-financial) that this will create -- as we rapidly transition away from fossil fuel-derived energy.
Not just applicable to the oil and gas industry, this applies similarly to every polluting or un-ecological sustainable industry.
This singularly-minded focus on job creation or retention--which it must be said sometimes is done by environmentalists as well, though at least for non-polluting jobs--distorts the evaluation of the benefits or lack thereof of whatever industry or program that's being discussed. It doesn't much serve anyone, other than in the immediately short-term.