Throughout his campaign for president, Joe Biden promised Americans that his green energy policies would “create millions of good-paying jobs.” During stump speeches and debates, Biden assured Americans that by transitioning the country away from fossil fuels, workers in these industries will be able to assume new roles in our new “clean” economy.
All of this conjures images of oil and gas workers setting down their equipment in the tumbleweed-filled fields of the Permian Basin, then picking up a solar panel to install on a nearby roof, or hoisting themselves high above the ground on a wind turbine.
The idea that fossil-fuel workers can effortlessly move into a new job in renewables is overly simplistic and ignores the diverse and technical skills in America’s energy workforce. But perhaps most importantly, it ignores the significant pay gap between the sectors.
The shale revolution transformed our country into a net exporter of oil and gas, propelled us into energy independence, and is responsible for creating 2.8 million new jobs.
The average salary of oil and natural gas workers is approximately $112,000, more than double the national private-sector average of $51,000. But oil and gas workers don’t just make double that of the national average. They make double that of wind and solar workers.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019 a worker installing solar panels made an average of a little more than $21 an hour. Workers in oil and gas extraction made more than twice as much, at an average of over $42 an hour.
In October 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy released a report that highlighted the important economic impact of the oil and gas industry. It referenced a finding from the Economic Policy Institute that “the oil and gas extraction industry has one of the highest indirect job multipliers,” in which one direct job leads to an additional 5.43 indirect jobs.
None of this is lost on America’s labor unions. Last July, the North America’s Building Trades Union issued two studies that assessed construction opportunities and job quality in the energy sector. NABTU President, Sean McGarvey, relayed the facts:
The research confirms what our members tell us: the career opportunities for renewables are nowhere near what they are in gas and oil, and domestic energy workers highly value the safety, reliable duration, and compensation of oil and gas construction jobs.
Despite all this, in some of his earliest acts after being sworn in, President Biden has begun efforts to dismantle the fossil fuel industry and eliminate the high-paying jobs that come with it.
Biden has made the United States rejoin the Paris climate agreement, halted oil and gas development on federal lands, and canceled the Keystone XL pipeline. Keystone XL developer TC Energy has said that canceling the project will immediately lead to the elimination of 1,000 jobs in the coming weeks, the majority of which are unionized workers in the building trades.
Indeed, Biden canceled Keystone XL even after the developer promised to use renewables to power the pipeline and achieve net-zero emissions. It would seem the Biden energy agenda is so blinded by its detest for oil and gas that even a net-zero emissions project isn’t good enough to save it.
Make no mistake, workers in the oil and gas industry should be gravely concerned. Even if they can maintain a paycheck and eventually change careers and work in renewables, they can expect a much smaller salary.
For the past year, we’ve heard Democrats, media know-it-alls, and Big Tech tycoons extolling the virtues of fighting “misinformation” and the importance of “facts.” But it seems like facts and data only matter to them when they fit into their leftist agenda.
The Biden slogan may be “Build Back Better.” The relevant question is: “Better for who?”