Lies, Secrets and Silences: Fracking Costs Jobs and Lives
Five Stars: Fracking Misstatement of the Day from FOX
In its otherwise unusually excellent coverage of the surge in fracking bans in six states (PA, OH, TX, NY, CA and CO) FOX News, in More Municipal Bans on Fracking Pose Setbacks to Domestic Energy Boom, credits the shale gas and oil boom with having already created “millions” of jobs in this cagily crafted lead sentence:
The surge in domestic-energy production that has created millions of new jobs and abundant natural gas and oil is now facing a potential setback, with cities across the country imposing bans on the widely-used deep-drilling process known as fracking.
The FOX coverage overall nicely showcases the effective, intrepid grassroots organizing that’s passed bans of all kinds at the city and county level in six states. This impressive achievement in the era of Citizens United is due primarily to the willingness of thousands of people to work hard, testify in public, knock on doors, self-educate, educate others, take risks, and be creative while working without pay. But FOX’s lead sentence, implying the shale oil and gas boom has created “millions” of jobs, wins the “misstatement of the day” award hands down.
According to the federal government, as of May 2013, Bureau of Labor statistics show a total of 192,650 jobs in oil and gas extraction in the entire United States, including a total of 279 job categories from “roustabout” and “cook” to “petroleum engineers” and “management” (there are 22,060 managers, the single most abundant category).
In counting “boom jobs,” one could legitimately add pipeline and other infrastructure boom jobs to that low total. But it’s well known that the shale industry overcounts new jobs: if a worker moves to six locations during one year and works part-time at each location, the industry announces they’ve created “6 new jobs,” for example. And the fact remains that the fracking boom has not created “millions” of jobs. FOX should be ashamed of themselves, even given that they are already infamous for boldly unapologetic bias.
Wind, solar, geothermal, and energy efficiency industries create more abundant, better paying, safer and more sustainable jobs. By 2011, jobs in the renewable energy industry surpassed oil and gas jobs in the U.S.:
- Renewables provide significantly more jobs per kilowatt capacity than oil and gas: In 2011, the oil and gas industry reported ~181,000 direct industry jobs to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Oil and gas accounted for approx. 45% of total energy generation capacity. During the same year, the renewable industry (AWEA, Solar Foundation and GEA) reported ~183,200 to BLS. Renewables account for approx. 15% of total energy generation capacity.
Business Concerns About Fracking also lists these three among many losses sustained by fracking boom-impacted areas:
- The gas industry claims that fracking creates numerous jobs; however, they neglect to publicize the long-term result of widespread job losses in non-gas related sectors that are incompatible with shale gas development, such as tourism, agriculture, food and beverage, and outdoor recreation.[ii]
- An independent study concluded extractive energy-focused counties are doing worse economically compared with peer communities and are less well-prepared for growth in the future, due to a less-diversified economy, a less-educated workforce, and greater disparities in income.[iii]
- Local employment created during the initial drilling and construction stages – especially in hospitality, trucking, construction and retail – are primarily short-term, low-wage and part-time. After the bust phase, most of the remaining positions are held by out-of-state workers already employed in the extraction industry.
Toxic Secrets: More workers are dying in the shalefields than most realize
Credit goes to Mike Sorahan for reporting on safety violations in the Bakken shalefields with “A death in the Bakken: Worker’s family rejects drug conclusion.” If more news outlets reported consistently and aggressively on the deaths, injuries and illnesses in the shalefields, from the Barnett and Bakken to the Marcellus and Utica, we would be in a better position as a society to protect our workers. As it is, workers are often silenced as part of the price they pay to have a shale “boom” job at all.