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Lies, Secrets and Silences: Fracking Costs Jobs and Lives

December 8, 2014

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.
Shoutouts to Diane Wexler of North Jersey Pipeline Walkers for the FOX news link, and to the researchers behind Business Concerns About Fracking for their clear, resourceful and nicely footnoted post.
To do: Share the FOX link on social media and confront the profundity of their exaggeration of shale gas and oil “boom” jobs.

Toxic Secrets:  More workers are dying in the shalefields than most realize

Not just in the Bakken: Workers also died on fracking sites in Ohio and Colorado in November 2014. This map shows a wellhead explosion which killed Norman Butler, a 48 year old Virginia man who was working on a pump that moves fracking condensate. From “Worker killed in explosion at Noble County oil and gas facility” by The Columbus Dispatch.

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.

  1. December 9, 2014 12:35 pm

    At the 12/5 rally against the dirty energy hub, there were many more groups.

    I saw these environmental groups…
    350 Philadelphia
    Beyond Natural Gas
    Clean Air Council
    Clean Water Action Philadelphia
    Delaware Riverkeeper Network
    Food & Water Watch PA
    Protecting Our Waters
    Sierra Club
    Citizens Climate Lobby

    these divestment groups…
    Maypop Collective for Climate & Economic Justice

    these neighborhood groups…
    North of Washington Ave Coalition

    these labor groups…
    Pennsylvania Federation BMWED Teamsters

    these student groups…
    Philadelphia Area Student Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaigns
    Fossil Free Drexel

    these religious/spiritual/interfaith groups…
    Philadelphia Be the Change
    Philadelphia Interfaith Power and Light
    The Shalom Center
    Earth Quaker Action Team
    Friends Center
    PA Interfaith Power & Light
    Summit Presbyterian Church

    and more!
    Elder Activists
    Occupy Philadelphia
    Physicians for Social Responsibility
    Rising Tide Philly
    Transition Philadelphia
    Weavers Way Environment Committee

    Definitely more than a few dozen. Also to remember that each person represented many who needed to be at work.

    • Iris Marie Bloom permalink
      December 15, 2014 5:15 pm

      Absolutely, good point Meenal. Maybe a great idea to post the same comment on the StateImpact blog so they receive the feedback. The diversity of groups was impressive, especially for the hours of 9 – 11 AM on a workday!

  2. Ryan permalink
    December 11, 2014 11:52 am

    Thank you for a great post. Please keep your readers apprised of any more demonstrations or actions we can take to help prevent this fossil fuel energy cancer hub from becoming an eventuality.

  3. December 14, 2014 6:13 pm

    Remember the black and white Exxon TV commercials? They were all at least seriously misleading, if not just plain flat out lies. One in particular, ‘Senior Engineer’ Artis Brown claims that the KXL will “Create hundreds of thousands of jobs”. Hundreds of thousands! A corporate mouthpiece would later say this was calculated over a 10 year period of time, and also included (mostly) ‘projections’ of jobs that were either a service company of Industry or staff increases at retailers, hotels, restaurants, shops and other merchants.


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