The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Talking About Real Energy Jobs

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted September 8, 2014

A final word on a recent op-ed attack on hydraulic fracturing by a Natural Resources Defense Council policy analyst – an especially glaring example of the way the anti-fracking crowd often kicks the facts to the curb while trying to undermine public support for safe, responsible drilling, the No. 1 reason for America’s energy revolution.

hard_hatsQuick review. We’ve already shown that federal and state regulatory regimes – with industry standards – are protecting the environment, drinking water supplies and communities. We’ve detailed how horizontal drilling has been around for decades, that advanced fracking is safe and beneficial, and that the resulting surge in natural gas production and use is largely responsible for reducing U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to their lowest level since 1994.

Now let’s talk jobs – one of our favorite subjects because the oil and natural gas industry supports 9.8 million of them, or about 5.6 percent of total employment in this country. NRDC’s Amy Mall wrote in the USA Today op-ed:

(Renewables) are job-creating economic engines. The renewable energy industry alone has grown at twice the rate of the overall economy, and green jobs employ 2.7 million Americans, more than the entire fossil fuels industry combined.

The source of the 2.7 million green jobs figure is a 2011 Brookings Institution report. The problem is Mall’s op-ed implies that’s 2.7 million renewable energy jobs, but the Brookings report is about clean jobs, jobs that help reduce pollution, not energy jobs. Looking more closely at the report, Table 1 on Page 20 shows:

  • Renewable energy – led by hydropower, wind, solar and biofuels/biomass – totaled 138,364 jobs. More than 55,000 of those were in hydro, more than twice the number of any of the other three. Brookings notes that “businesses involved in renewable energy … comprise just 5 percent of all clean economy jobs.”
  • Jobs in conservation (314,983), public mass transit (350,547), waste management and treatment (386,116) all were twice as large as the renewable energy category. Arguably, a significant number of those jobs would exist without the recent push for “green” jobs.
  • There were nearly 142,000 jobs in regulation and compliance – meaning green world regulation out-employed green world energy production.

Analysis of the Brookings report from the Cascade Policy Institute:

Surprisingly, the top sector for clean jobs was not installing sleek new solar panels or manufacturing electric cars, but “waste management and treatment” (386,000 jobs). In other words, trash collectors. Rounding out the rest of the top four were “mass public transit” (350,000 jobs), conservation (315,000), and “regulation and compliance,” i.e., government employees (141,000).

Essentially, the jobs figure advanced by the NRDC op-ed is a reclassification of jobs and counts conventional jobs that already existed as being part of the clean economy. This isn’t a knock on employment in the Brookings inventory. In the current economy, every job is valuable – a point that opponents of oil and natural gas often fail to concede as they dismiss jobs our industry supports. Rather, it’s another call for fact-based conversation.

Unfortunately, whether the subject is hydraulic fracturing safety, regulation, environmental impact or jobs, the NRDC op-ed falls short – brandishing vague, unsupportable claims in the effort to create doubt about energy development that’s transforming America’s present and future.


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.