Posted January 14, 2016
If you believe America is best served by taking a true, all-of-the-above approach to energy – and we do – there’s not a lot of value in getting into a donnybrook over which energy sector employs the most people. America needs all of its energy sources and all of each energy sector’s jobs. That said, let’s set the record a little straighter in the wake of a recent report by the Solar Foundation.
The solar report trumpets 209,000 workers employed by the solar industry – including installation, manufacturing, sales & distribution, project development and “all others.” The report compares that figure with 187,000 people employed in just the oil and natural gas industry’s extraction segment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an apples-to-oranges comparison that could leave a wrong impression.
We looked at the comparison and figured something is missing. The Solar Foundation’s report fact sheet signals as much by comparing all those solar jobs to both the oil and gas extraction segment and the oil and gas pipeline construction segment – as though the two aren’t part of the same industry, which, of course, they are. Perhaps they did that because those two segments alone, by solar’s count, employ 316,700 people, and that would foul up their comparison.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with the BLS statistic that solar used, but the fact is it’s just a subset of our industry’s total employment and only includes salaried employees. This Bureau of Economic Analysis accounting shows 922,000 workers in oil and gas extraction alone, a total that appropriately includes independent contractors and proprietorships.
Taking it a step further – to achieve more of an apples-to-apples comparison with employment in all of solar’s segments – the oil and natural gas industry’s total direct employment is about 2.6 million, according to PwC.
We’ll end where we started: Every American energy type is needed, and every energy job is valued. What should be acknowledged is the oil and natural gas industry’s significant contribution to the U.S. economy – 9.8 million jobs supported (direct, indirect, induced) and about $1.2 trillion in U.S. GDP.
As for the energy that runs America, oil and natural gas are the leading fuel sources today and will be the leader for lots of tomorrows. According to EIA, oil and gas supply 63 percent of the energy America uses right now and will provide 62 percent of our energy in 2040. That’s leadership on energy our industry is glad to provide.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joins API after spending 16 years as national editorial writer in the Washington Bureau of The Oklahoman newspaper. In all, he has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years, including six years as sports editor at The Washington Times. He lives in Occoquan, Virginia, with his wife Pamela. Mark graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in journalism and earned a masters in journalism and public affairs at American University. He's currently working on a masters in history at George Mason University, where he also teaches as an adjunct professor in the Communication Department.