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Debunking Common Myths About America’s Energy Future


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For those reporting on tonight’s presidential primary debate, please see below for the Facts debunking some frequently heard talking points about America’s energy future:

  • Myth 1: Plans that mandate a transition to renewable energy will create jobs that pay as well as the union jobs that will be lost. The Facts
  • Myth 2: Americans who lose their job in the natural gas and oil industry can easily transition to a new job working in renewable energy. The Facts
  • Myth 3: A ban on U.S. natural gas and oil exports will help reduce CO2 emissions. The Facts
  • Myth 4: Iowa would benefit from policies limiting natural gas and oil. The Facts

“The risks of climate change are real and so the solutions must be real as well. Policy proposals that hide the key role of natural gas and oil in powering America towards a brighter, cleaner energy future are more focused on powering applause lines than power lines, and can delay progress towards finding real policy solutions,” API’s Director of Communications Ben Marter said.

The American natural gas and oil industry is committed to addressing the challenge of climate change while meeting society’s growing energy needs. Bold and achievable action on climate change at the global level is essential, and America’s natural gas and oil industry is committed to innovation and leadership to make these ambitions more than just hopes and dreams.


Myth:

Plans that mandate a transition to renewable energy will create jobs that pay as well as the union jobs that will be lost.

Facts:

Bloomberg Law reports that a “shift to renewable energy is a move away from an industry with union jobs.” (Bloomberg Law, 2/21/19)

  • According to Vox, many renewable energy companies are led by individuals “hostile” to union activity and the industry relies on labor practices that “hamper organizing.”(Vox, 7/19/19)

  • 3.4% of solar photovoltaic workers are unionized while 4% of workers in wind power generation were unionized. ("U.S. Energy and Employment Report,” U.S. Department of Energy, 1/20/17)

  • President of the North America’s Building Trades Unions: “Members working in the oil and gas sector can make a middle-class living, whereas renewable energy firms have been less generous.” (Reuters, 2/12/19)

  • AFL-CIO President: “[P]lans that devastate communities today, while offering vague promises about the future…are not worthy of the American heroes who build and power this country every day.” (AFL-CIO, 7/24/19)

  • President of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers: “Workers who have completed an apprentice program or otherwise dedicated years of their lives in a craft don’t want to see their skill sets devalued or be thrown into junior positions in a new occupation.” (International Brotherhood of Boilermakers,, 3/7/19/19)

The average annual pay for natural gas and oil extraction workers is $91,370. (BLS, 5/2018)

The average annual pay for solar photovoltaic installers is $46,010. (BLS, 5/2018)

The average annual pay for wind turbine service technicians is $58,000. (BLS, 5/2018)


Myth:

Americans who lose their job in the natural gas and oil industry can easily transition to a new job working in renewable energy

Facts:

As workers in any industry that has lost jobs know, a steep drop in employment within one’s industry can have a devastating impact even if someone is able to eventually find employment in a different field. But beyond any emotional and psychological toll, creating a federal retraining program won’t guarantee workers a successful transition:

  • The Atlantic: “[M]ost [job-retraining programs] have been found to be ineffective according to numerous studies over the years.” (The Atlantic, 1/18/18)
  • Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy: “Despite promises from the federal government for a quarter century to provide worker retraining, education, and other support to help communities displaced by globalization and displacement, both parties have failed to fulfill those promises.” (Columbia’s Center on Global Energy Policy, 3/25/19)

And according to a report titled ‘Jobs and Environmental Regulation’ by Resources for The Future, an environmental research institution:

  • A transitional “worker who loses his job won’t immediately find a new job at the same wage, but instead will likely spend a significant amount of time searching for work, and might well need to accept a lower wage in the new job.” (“Jobs and Environmental Regulation,” Resources For The Future, 7/2019, p. 9)
  • “[W]orkers who lose their jobs in mass-layoff events suffer not just a spell of unemployment, but also have persistently lower earnings for a long period even after finding a new job.” (“Jobs and Environmental Regulation,” Resources For The Future, 7/2019, p. 1)
  • One case study cited found that older workers were disproportionately subjected to a decrease in wages following a regulation-induced job transition. (“Jobs and Environmental Regulation,” Resources For The Future, 7/2019, p. 15)
  • Unemployed transitional workers “are much less likely than the average unemployed worker to find jobs in the period immediately after implementation of a new regulation.” (“Jobs and Environmental Regulation,” Resources For The Future, 7/2019, p. 41)
  • Accommodating transitional workers back into the labor market “becomes more and more difficult as the amount of [transitional workers] grows.” (“Jobs and Environmental Regulation,” Resources For The Future, 7/2019, p. 43)
  • Workers may need to relocate to find a new job, especially in areas with a high concentration of unemployed transitional workers, which creates additional financial barriers to gaining employment. (“Jobs and Environmental Regulation,” Resources For The Future, 7/2019, p. 6)
    • Urban Institute: A mismatch of where jobs and job seekers are located leads to “spatial mismatch” and that can “cause high unemployment rates and lead to longer spells of joblessness.” (“Too Far from Jobs: Spatial Mismatch and Hourly Workers,” Urban Institute, 2/21/19)
    • National Bureau Of Economic Research: “Blacks, females, and older workers are more sensitive to [spatial mismatch] than other subpopulations.” (“Job Displacement and the Duration of Joblessness: The Role of Spatial Mismatch,” National Bureau Of Economic Research, 4/2014)

Myth:

A ban on U.S. natural gas and oil exports will help reduce CO2 emissions

Facts:

A ban on U.S. oil exports would shift oil production away from the U.S. and towards many countries that have less stringent environmental regulations. And with natural gas playing a key role in displacing coal power—which emits almost twice as much carbon dioxide as natural gas—a ban on U.S. natural gas exports could actually increase the growth of coal-generated power worldwide and lead to a rise in global CO2 emissions.

  • Bloomberg News: “New export terminals are exporting cheap American gas worldwide, prompting countries across Asia, especially China and Pakistan, to buy LNG as an alternative to coal for power generation.” (Bloomberg, 7/22/19)
  • IEA: Natural gas “replaces more polluting fuels,” “reduces air pollution and limits emissions of carbon dioxide.” (“The Role of Gas in Today’s Energy Transitions,” International Energy Agency, 7/17/19, p. 2)
  • “Despite growth in coal use, fuel switching between coal and gas accelerated in 2018, reducing the carbon intensity of global energy use.” (“Global Energy & CO2 Status Report,” International Energy Agency, 3/26/19)
    • “Without this coal-to-gas switch, the increase in emissions would have been more than 15% greater.” (“Global Energy & CO2 Status Report,” International Energy Agency, 3/26/19)

The continued rise of coal power abroad despite the current availability of renewables makes it clear that power generation is not a binary choice between natural gas and renewables.

  • Global coal use increased by 75% between 2000 and 2013, and IEA expects it to “expect it to remain broadly steady thereafter through 2024.” (“Coal 2019,” International Energy Agency, 12/2019)
  • IEA: “In the absence of sufficient access to gas, the expansion of India’s industrial base may continue to be characterised by a high reliance on coal.” (“The Role of Gas in Today’s Energy Transitions,” International Energy Agency, 7/17/19, p. 14)

Lastly, as the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory explicitly states, “…U.S. LNG exports for power production in European and Asian markets will not increase GHG emissions…” ("Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Perspective On Exporting Liquefied Natural Gas From The United States: 2019 Update,” DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, 9/2019, p. 32)


Myth:

Iowa would benefit from policies limiting natural gas and oil

Facts:

Having access to affordable natural gas and petroleum products is vital for Iowa’s agricultural industry.

  • “Manufacturing and agriculture help make Iowa the fifth-largest energy-consuming state per capita” and natural gas and oil accounted for nearly 50% of the energy consumed in Iowa in 2017. (U.S. Energy Information Administration, Accessed 1/13/20)
  • Iowa is the nation’s fourth largest consumer of hydrocarbon gas liquids, where farmers use propane to dry their corn. (U.S. Energy Information Administration, Accessed 1/13/20)
  • “Natural gas is a feedstock for ammonia. Ammonia is a primary component in fertilizers, especially the ammonium nitrate fertilizer that is used on corn.” (Quad-City Times, 3/20/13)
  • Wall Street Journal: “U.S. fertilizer producers are benefiting from the long-brewing shale revolution. The combination of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has significantly boosted production, bringing down the cost of gas.” (Wall Street Journal, 2/12/17)
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