Biden’s climate change plan and the battle for America’s most threatened workers

Oil and natural gas exploration -- geology and geophysics
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Biden’s climate change plan and the battle for America’s most threatened workers

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the number of oil and gas extraction jobs at roughly 160,000 at the end of 2020, and coal mining jobs slipped below 50,000 total by year-end. Those numbers can appear small — Amazon hired over 400,000 workers during the pandemic and now employs more than one million globally — but as America and companies like Amazon transition to a green economy, these extraction jobs are concentrated in many rural regions where local economies are reliant on the mining and drilling, including the Permian Basin in West Texas and New Mexico; the Marcellus in Pennsylvania and Ohio; the Bakken in North Dakota; and in parts of California, Colorado, Louisiana, Oklahoma. In many, economic hardship and unemployment during the pandemic were higher than the national average — the size of the oil and gas jobs labor force fell to a multi-decade low in 2020 after having been as high as 600,000 jobs just a few years ago.

For every direct jobs lost in a power plant or in mining, the community loses four indirect jobs, according to Heidi Binko, executive director of the Just Transition Fund, which has been working on projects in coal communities since 2015.

Even though it is coal right now that has seen its fortunes, and jobs, shrink the most consistently and rapidly, the broader workforce supported by oil and gas numbers in the millions and with decisions like GM’s this week to fully transition to electric vehicles over the next 14 years, the labor market and economic ripple effects will be widespread.

The U.S. oil industry is expected to contract by 20% in the next decade and by 95% between 2031–2050, according to the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The natural gas industry isn’t expected to begin its decline until 2030, but decline by 75% in the two decades after that. Any forecast is based on assumptions that will be tested by the global appetite for aggressive climate policies, and the political reality could result in a slower decline. But many experts do agree that the coal industry may be gone for good, even by the end of this decade. ... rkers.html

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