New Analysis Shows Challenges to Shifting Oil and Natural Gas Workers to Other Sectors
Posted December 20, 2021
Since President Biden came into office, he and his administration have talked about moving oil and natural gas industry workers into “good-paying jobs” or “well-paying union jobs” in wind, solar and other renewable energies as part of a plan to tackle climate change by phasing out natural gas and oil – by far America’s leading energy sources.
Yet, the reality is that transferring workers to the renewable energy sector from careers in oil and natural gas – where non-retail, direct industry jobs pay 80% more than the average job in the U.S., according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data – is fraught with challenges. These make the notion of job transferability more aspirational than feasible and economically untenable for millions of American families – underscored in a new analysis by Cicero in coordination with North America's Building Trades Unions (NABTU) and API.
The analysis found that only two of the 18 most prevalent oil and natural gas industry jobs are reasonably transferable to the 18 most in-demand renewable energy jobs. Key details from the study:
- Quality and Pay: A number of renewable energy jobs, such as those in wind and solar, are more likely to use less-skilled workers, or those from a narrower selection of trades, compared to oil and natural gas construction and maintenance projects. Currently, many readily available renewable energy jobs typically do not have comparable pay with oil and natural gas jobs – meaning that many transitioned workers likely would face pay cuts.
- Requirements: Many oil and natural gas workers would face significant challenges in transitioning to a number of renewable energy jobs that have lower skillset and education requirements.
- Availability: The most prevalent oil and natural gas jobs employ 10 times as many workers as there are average annual job postings for the most in-demand renewable energy occupations. Even when skills and quality are aligned, there may not be sufficient concentrations of renewable energy jobs in the top regions where natural gas and oil jobs are located.
The analysis underscores how the long-term careers and high pay and benefits associated with our industry are simply not comparable to other industries. It’s a reminder to policymakers that we should be focused on growing the entire energy workforce, because global energy demand is projected to increase nearly 50% by 2050 over 2020 demand – and natural gas and oil are expected to supply about half of that 2050 demand.
We should increase American oil and natural gas jobs, not transfer them to other sectors. Doing so could force workers, who’ve made good oil and natural gas industry careers for themselves and their families, to walk away from education and specialized skillsets for work elsewhere that doesn’t necessarily align with their experiences or preferences.
The millions of skilled workers who produce and deliver American energy are essential to the U.S. economy, helping American families keep their lights on and heat their homes while driving innovation to advance a lower-carbon future.
About The Author
Frank Macchiarola became API senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs in 2019 after previously serving as vice president of downstream and industry operations since 2016. Macchiarola came to API from America’s Natural Gas Alliance, where he was the organization’s executive vice president. A Capitol Hill veteran, he held several senior staff positions in the U.S. Senate including with the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee. Macchiarola is a graduate of the College of Holy Cross and earned his J.D. from New York University School of Law.