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Energy and Jobs

December 9, 2012

Energy and Jobs: Corbett Taking Us Back in Time

by Sandra Folaer

I shudder when I hear the gas and oil industry, as well as politicians, talk about how wonderful it is that gas drilling will create so many jobs. It’s an outright lie, but few people know that. The Marcellus Shale Coalition, a lobby organization, claims that 88,000 new jobs were created in PA in 2010. However, according to Pennsylvania’s public records, only 60,000 new jobs were created, and most of these were in education and health. The Coalition needs to learn arithmetic. Estimates on jobs created by gas drilling vary widely. Studies funded by the gas industry tend to inflate job numbers astronomically.
One reason the industry inflates job numbers is that they count each “new hire” as a job created, but new hires replace workers who have quit, been fired or retired. They are not “new” jobs. To put things in perspective, from the end of 2009 to the beginning of 2011, there were 2.8 million “new hires” in PA industries but only 85,467 jobs created.

The gas industry doesn’t address job losses because of drilling. For example, recreational areas are being destroyed as concrete well pads dot our state forests. The number of hunting and fishing tourists as well as campers may decline. According to the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, PA had 37.9 million visitors to state parks in 2010. There were $1,145 billion in sales and 12,630 jobs, including both direct effects like lodging and restaurants and secondary effects like business services and retail sales. For every dollar invested in PA’s State Parks, there was $12.41 in income. This income and these jobs may be lost as more fracking sites are located within state parks.

A 2006-2008 study compared 23 different counties out west according to gas drilling intensity. Those who had the most gas drilling had more poverty, lower median incomes and more unemployment.

The gas industry claims that municipalities benefit. However, Professor Kelsey at Penn State surveyed 300 local municipalities in PA. While 18% said they benefited from gas drilling, 25% said their towns lost money mostly due to road repairs.

Busted: Steep Shale Gas Production Declines

There may not be as much gas as the industry says. The New York Times revealed from secret memos within the gas industry that their grandiose claims of huge gas deposits in the Marcellus Shale are bogus. “Money is pouring in” from investors even though shale gas is ‘inherently unprofitable,’ an analyst from PNC Wealth Management, an investment company, wrote to a contractor in an email. “Reminds you of dot-coms.” Some have ever equated the natural gas boom to a Ponzi scheme. Listen here to an analysis which reaches that conclusion.

Most gas comes in one or two years, and then it declines. The average Barnett well was finished in 7 years, not 40 years as stated. In Lucerne County, PA, in Nov. 2010, EnCana Gas Co decided to leave as their wells were not producing enough gas. The cement well pads and waste pools remain.

Renewable Energy More Labor Intensive

The gas and oil industry is capital intensive; this means they are invested in equipment and need a large amount of investment. Renewable energy jobs are labor intensive, meaning they invest in jobs. The gas industry moves their workers from well to well so that any hiring is temporary and part time. In one study from the University of Massachusetts, a comparison was made among jobs in the different energy sectors. For every 3.1 jobs created in the gas and oil industry, there were 9.5 and 9.8 jobs in the wind and solar industries respectively.*

Presently, 90% of our electricity comes from dirty coal. If we had a renewable energy standard requiring us to get 20% of our energy from renewable sources by 2020, we would create 820,000 new jobs. Electric bills would be lower and there would be a reduction of global warming pollution equal to 36.4 million cars off the road, according to the Sierra Club.

Corbett Trashes Renewable Energy

SO WHY IS GOVERNOR CORBETT ELIMINATING PROGRAMS FOCUSING ON RENEWABLE ENERGY?? Could it be the million dollars he received from the gas industry? He is systematically shutting down the state’s Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Energy and Technology Deployment. This office administered clean energy grant programs, provided technical assistance to renewable energy companies and housed the climate change office. This office is now without a director. Corbett has removed directors and reassigned staff. He is forbidding state agencies from signing contracts supporting clean energy. As a result 100,000 “green jobs” are at risk, according to PennFuture. As one DEP employee described the situation, “it’s being taken apart piece-by-piece and the pieces are being thrown away.”

Corbett’s administration’s prohibition against sustainable energy reverses a policy which had the state buying half of its electricity from renewable sources, making it a leader in clean energy. The new DEP spokeswoman Katy Gresh said eliminating the sustainable energy program will save the state $1 million, citing a $1 million grant program for small business energy efficiency. Corbett wants to rely on natural gas alone for the state’s energy needs.

Sadly, Pennsylvania is not alone. Reassessing and considering reductions in sustainable energy are occurring in many states, from Connecticut to Colorado and Oklahoma, according to the Pew Research Center.

Christina Simeone of PennFuture said, “Around the world countries are realizing there needs to be a mix of fossil and sustainable energy and unless we continue to diversity we will be left in the dust….We should be doing everything we can to create jobs in those areas and embrace those opportunities. But what we’re doing just doesn’t make sense.”

Essentially, gas drilling in PA is a job program for workers in Oklahoma and Texas, while the residents of PA bear the cost of damaged roads and bridges. More important, residents are left with polluted air and water which destroys our health. Job opportunities disappear as the natural gas industry moves on to new fertile land to frack.

*According to the American Wind Energy Ass., the wind industry employed 85,000 Americans in 2010. The Solar Foundation estimated there were 93,000 solar workers in 2010. The Geothermal Energy Ass. estimated 5,200 jobs, with many more indirect jobs in 2010. The Brookings Institute reports in “Sizing the Clean Economy” that there are approximately 130,000 jobs in the renewable energy sector, including manufacturing, maintenance, regulation and research.

Sandra Folzer

3 Comments
  1. December 9, 2012 4:26 pm

    yes, let’s emphasize renewables and all the jobs from this and keep our environment and health safe and clean.

  2. December 9, 2012 6:39 pm

    I’ve got Pennsylvania’s “Project Sunshine” photovoltaic cells (48 of them) and 10 solar thermal hot water collectors on the south roof of my barn to power my goat dairy. The $100,000 system has a $30,000 subsidy from Project Sunshine and $30,000 from President Obama’s stimulus funds, and I’m in it for $40,000 from my retirement funds. This solar array is producing about 24 megawatts of energy annually. Since April 2010 when we turned it on, this system has reduced my farm’s carbon footprint by an equivalent of 60 tons of CO2. Governor Corbett, by contrast, wants to eliminate the state’s renewable energy portfolio and cram it into that “place where the sun don ‘t shine,” I.e. – his a**hole of an energy policy. He’s a gas industry vassal, pure and simple, and we need to work to get his hell out of the Governor’s mansion.

  3. December 10, 2012 9:08 pm

    Gov. Corbett is not working in the best interest of the people in Pennsylvania. Don’t let Gov. Corbett, eliminate Pennsylvania’s renewable energy portfolio.

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