Big Oil ‘Exaggerates’ Jobs to Stall Climate Action, New Report Alleges

Work teams from Winkelmans Environmentally Responsible Construction (WERC) and Trillium Development prepared an SES wind turbine for lifting up the 160-foot tower at the School of Environmental Studies in Apple Valley, Minnesota. Photo credit: Star Tribune via Getty Images

Just a week after similar criticism from Democrats in Congress, the industry is once again facing allegations of misleading the public to stall climate action and protect its bottom line.

In a report released Monday, environmental advocacy Food and Water Watch accused the industry’s largest trade association of overstating the number of jobs nationwide created and sustained by oil and gas companies by more than 10 million. Fossil fuel advocates cite these inflated numbers, the report’s authors argue, when campaigning against fracking bans, drilling restrictions and other measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

The American Petroleum Institute’s most recent State of American Energy report, using the trade association’s 2019 estimates, “claims that 11.3 million jobs are supported by the oil and gas industry,” Food and Water Watch wrote in its Monday report. “In reality, there were only 695,000 oil and gas jobs nationwide in 2019.”

“The oil and gas industry and its advocates are misleading the public and policymakers about the economic benefits this destructive industry is bringing,” the report’s authors added. “Your false claims are unfounded and must not be allowed to hold back a rapid transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.”

Both the American Petroleum Institute, or API, and Food and Water Watch use government data in their analyzes — although API comes from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, while Food and Water Watch gets its numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the environmental group said in its report that the main reason for API’s much higher estimate is that it includes “completely unrelated professions,” such as truck drivers and wholesalers who supply or sell fossil fuel products, and even businesses who manufacture asphalt and roofing materials from petroleum.

Gas station jobs, including those in affiliated convenience stores, make up about half of the jobs cited in fossil fuel industry studies, the report added.

These “indirect” or “induced” jobs come primarily from the fossil fuel industry’s supply chains and from wages spent by employees at other companies, rather than from oil and gas companies themselves, the report says, and could easily be replaced by jobs in the field be replaced by clean energy. For example, truck drivers could supply parts for wind farms and solar panels, wholesalers could sell them, and factories could build them.

In other words, the jobs that these companies identify as ‘at risk’ from climate change mitigation ‘would only be ‘lost’ if the alternative to investing in oil and gas had nothing to do with capital and did not involve the use of electricity or energy ‘ the authors of the report conclude. “This is a wrong choice.”

The American Petroleum Institute dismissed Monday’s report’s conclusions, calling it “misleading” and saying it reflected the authors’ “fundamental misunderstanding of how our industry benefits all sectors of the economy.”

“There is no question that America’s natural gas and oil industry has fundamentally transformed the local economy, supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country and lowering household energy bills, while strengthening our energy security and driving green advances.” an API spokesman told Inside Climate News in an email.

However, Food and Water Watch’s assessment appears to be more consistent with the Department of Energy’s 2021 analysis of US energy jobs, which found that clean energy jobs led the sector’s job boom over the past year, while gas and gas jobs , coal and oil companies fell by more than 29,271 jobs, or about 3.1 percent. The International Energy Agency also estimated in its annual World Energy Employment Report released earlier this month that up to 14 million new clean energy jobs could be created globally by 2030, with an additional 16 million workers expected to move into new clean energy-related roles .

Food and Water Watch’s report is the second time this month that fossil fuel companies have been subjected to public scrutiny on how their products impact climate change and how honest they are about fighting it. In the face of mounting public pressure, the world’s largest oil companies have announced goals in recent years to either switch to renewable energy sources or at least reduce their carbon footprint.

But a study published in February in the journal PLOS One found that the four largest oil majors — Exxon, Chevron, Shell and BP — are failing to meet those commitments as they continue to prioritize investments in new oil and gas development. And last week House Democrats released a series of internal documents they say prove oil companies continue to mislead the public about climate change, undermine global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and push unproven technological solutions to keep selling fossil fuels.

The documents, subpoenaed as part of a House investigation into climate disinformation, include an email to Exxon’s chief executive officer discussing ways to weaken an industry-wide climate commitment, and a guideline urging Shell Employees are warned “not to give the impression that Shell is willing to reduce carbon emissions to levels that are not commercially viable” to avoid investor lawsuits, as well as an email from a Shell employee saying the ” The company’s “net zero” promise has “nothing to do with our business plans.”

In fact, Big Oil has faced similar allegations for years, if not decades. Since 2017, US cities and states have filed at least 20 lawsuits against leading oil companies, accusing them of downplaying the consequences of burning fossil fuels to consumers and investors despite knowing for decades that their products are causing historic and devastating climate change .

But those accusations, and their wider implications for the world, appear to be coming to a head this year as fossil fuel companies post record-breaking profits and nations debate how to pay for international efforts to curb the climate crisis.

Accelerated by the pandemic recovery and the Russian war in Ukraine, both of which experts say have upended global geopolitics and contributed significantly to sky-high energy costs, fossil fuel companies around the world are now making some of their biggest gains on record of the records. Collectively, Exxon, Chevron, Shell, BP, and TotalEnergies generated $55 billion in the second quarter of 2022 alone, with Exxon posting its largest quarterly profit in history at $17.9 billion.

At the same time, hundreds of millions of people around the world are paying record high prices at the pump and on their energy bills. That has drawn criticism from several top US lawmakers, who have accused the companies of using their recent profits to line the pockets of executives and investors rather than helping struggling Americans. “Rather than use these windfalls to lower prices, oil companies are instead buying back their own stock and increasing dividends for shareholders,” wrote the office of Energy and Trade Committee Chair Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) , last in a press release month.

Big Oil is also feeling the heat on the global stage. in the his opening address at the 77th General Assembly of the United NationsTo be held this week in New York City, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on all developed economies to tax fossil fuel companies to make them pay for efforts, “people struggling with soaring food and energy prices,” and “To help countries suffering loss and damage from the climate crisis.”

“It’s high time to bring this to the attention of fossil fuel producers, investors and pioneers,” Guterres said. “Polluters have to pay”

This is an issue also highlighted by the authors of the Food and Water Watch report, citing the declining employment rate in the industry even as domestic fossil fuel production increased. Since 2014, the report says, oil and gas companies have increased production by 33 percent while industrial jobs have fallen by 37 percent. In 2021, the latest available year for government employment data, oil and gas companies directly employed just over 500,000 workers nationwide, according to the environmental group’s report. That’s 50,000 fewer than the total number of jobs an API official claimed would be lost in Pennsylvania alone after state regulators voted to ban fracking in the Delaware River Basin last year.

“While the oil and gas industry uses job promises to gain political clout, increased production doesn’t actually guarantee more jobs,” say the Food and Water Watch authors. “And 2021 shows that even if production starts up again, jobs will continue to be cut.”

That’s it for Today’s Climate this week. Thank you for reading. I’ll be back in your inbox on Tuesday.

Today’s indicator

$207 billion

That’s how much money US banks gave to the coal industry between 2019 and 2021, according to a new report, putting American financial institutions second only to Chinese banks when it comes to financing the dirtiest of all fossil fuels.

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