Biden’s Pledge to Pennsylvania Energy Workers Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be
Posted September 3, 2020
Former Vice President Joe Biden hit the campaign trail this week in southwestern Pennsylvania, home to the energy-rich Marcellus Shale – a good backdrop for discussing how Biden’s energy and jobs policies could affect Pennsylvania and other big production states, including New Mexico and Colorado, as well as Gulf Coast states.
Start with Biden’s remarks from Pittsburgh that, if elected, he will not ban fracking – clearly, to calm voters in shale country, where hydraulic fracturing has revitalized state and local economies, and necessitated by what he said in March and July, which sounded an awful lot like he would ban fracking.
So, case closed, right? Well, not exactly.
While Biden says he wouldn’t ban fracking, his policy website calls for a ban on new natural gas and oil permitting on public lands and waters, which also would be bad for American families and businesses. Such a ban could significantly impact New Mexico, Colorado and four other top-producing states in the West, where the federal government owns more than 40% of the land.
Biden’s proposed ban also could hit home in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, whose production would be significantly impacted if new Gulf of Mexico development were banned. Keep in mind that about 15% of U.S. crude oil production is from the offshore, and Gulf development generates significant revenue-sharing streams for state treasuries.
Let’s look at the potential impacts on just one of these key energy states, New Mexico, which ranked second in the nation in oil production, according to government data earlier this year. Since about two-thirds of New Mexico’s natural gas production and more than half of its oil production occur on federal land, according to the government, banning new federal permitting could put a big hole in the state’s budget.
“When people talk about shutting down the oil and gas industry, I don’t think people are seeing how that will affect me and my students.”
Higher education in New Mexico also could be blind-sided by a Biden ban. Natural gas and oil were tabbed by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to fund a proposal to make college tuition free for state residents. A permitting ban could wreck that idea.
More broadly, Gov. Grisham said last year: “Without the oil and gas industry, without the energy effort in this state, no one gets to make education the top priority moving forward.”
As for New Mexico jobs and the state economy, Biden’s promised ban could significantly impact both when you consider that the natural gas and oil industry supported more than 117,000 New Mexico jobs in 2018 while contributing more than $17 billion to the state’s economy, according to a PwC study.
That’s one energy state. Think about impacts in Colorado, Louisiana and others that produce the reliable energy Americans count on every day – as well as energy jobs, a mainstay in the U.S. workforce and economy. Frank Macchiarola, API senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs, in a Fox Business interview:
“The United States has experienced essentially a generational shift in energy security, economic security, employment and CO2 emission reductions as a result of the shale revolution. A policy that would go backward from that, in our view, is the wrong direction.”
On energy jobs, Biden promises to create millions in the clean energy sector. His website says “construction, skilled trades and engineering workers” are needed to “build a new American infrastructure and clean energy economy.”
His campaign should check with the men and women in those construction and skilled trades professions. Sean McGarvey, North American Building Trades president is among those who need convincing that Biden’s idea of retraining and redirecting workers into new careers is a great idea. For some important reasons.
First, workers attempting to transition to a new career often find it difficult and ultimately job retraining isn’t very effective. In addition, promises like those in Biden’s plan, that the government will provide retraining programs and education, have gone unfulfilled.
Second and most importantly, many of the men and women who are members of McGarvey’s federation already have excellent, well-paying jobs – working on natural gas and oil projects.
NABTU recently released two studies showing that union workers prefer natural gas and oil jobs over “green-collar” jobs because they pay better, last longer and provide better opportunity. It’s a no-brainer and explains why McGarvey and his members aren’t sold on what the former vice president is selling. McGarvey:
“We agree over the coming decades, we’re going to do more and more transition. But we can’t transition into careers where people take a 50% or 75% pay cut.”
In an editorial, “About Joe’s Energy Jobs,” The Wall Street Journal put it this way:
In 2008 Barack Obama promised millions of “green jobs,” but the great irony was that the oil-and-gas fracking revolution provided the real employment boom of his Presidency. … According to a Bloomberg News analysis, the U.S. fossil fuels industry employs nearly five million people, including 250,000 in Pennsylvania, 174,000 in Ohio and 839,000 in Texas. Now Mr. Biden wants to extinguish those jobs on a bet on solar panels and wind turbines. As the union workers put it, c’mon, man.
More to come on this topic. Stay tuned …
About The Author
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. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. 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 have two grown children and six grandchildren.