Since a pro-oil administration entered the White House, the oil industry lobby has praised the ‘America-First’ energy strategy, while proponents of cleaner energy have been arguing that the U.S. needs a more diversified energy mix in which renewables should have a greater share.
The pro-oil camp—like President Trump--argues that more oil and gas drilling will boost American energy independence, create many more jobs, and ultimately lead to American energy dominance.
The other point of view is that, despite skeptics, climate change is here and is a threat, and the U.S. should use more renewable energy in its energy mix if it is to stand a chance against global warming and keep pace with the rest of the world in terms of clean energy development.
Last week, the debate was the center of the point/counterpoint articles in The State-Journal Register, in which Jack N. Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute (API), and Michael Kraft, a professor emeritus of political science and public and environmental affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, offered their viewpoints on should America expand oil drilling to boost jobs.
API’s Gerard argued that the U.S. oil and gas industry is a “blockbuster job creator” that adds trillions of dollars to the American economy and boosts economic activity across all states, regardless of whether they are large producers of oil and gas or not.
Professor Kraft, on the other hand, stresses that the cleaner energy revolution lowers costs for energy, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and improves air quality and public health.
In his opinion piece, API’s president cited a study prepared by PwC for the petroleum institute and published last month, which says that in 2015 the oil and gas industry supported 10.3 million full- and part-time jobs through direct employment and indirect support to other sectors. That’s a 5.2-percent increase compared to 2011. In 2015, the industry contributed an estimated US$1.3 trillion to the U.S. economy—this figure accounted for 7.6 percent of the U.S. GDP.
In the counterpoint opinion, Kraft is also pointing to recent studies—but without naming them—that show employment in cleaner energy production is on the rise.
For example, one such study could be the U.S. Energy and Employment Report from January this year, which showed that proportionally, solar employment represents the biggest share of workers in the Electric Power Generation sector, mostly due to construction related to the significant increase in new solar generation capacity.
According to the Energy Department’s report, solar tech employs around 374,000 workers, or 43 percent of the Electric Power Generation workforce. To compare, fossil fuel generation employment accounts for 22 percent of total Electric Power Generation workforce and supports 187,117 workers across coal, oil, and natural gas generation technologies.
The oil industry lobby, quite naturally, is calling for opening more federal offshore areas to exploration. Kraft, on the other hand, sees the future as legislation fostering a diversity of new energy technologies. He argues that as clean energy sources become more competitive, the shift to cleaner energy will occur naturally, with well-designed policies to ensure smoother transition without economic disruptions.
Last year, renewable energy sources accounted for about 10 percent of total U.S. energy consumption and around 15 percent of electricity generation.
API’s Gerard argues that “expanding access to U.S. energy resources is critical to future energy security and to fueling economic growth”. He’s calling for opening more offshore acreage to development because now “we’re leaving hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs on the table, not to mention production gains of more than a million barrels of oil equivalent per day.”
API submitted comments to the Department of Interior in response to a request for information on the 2019-2024 Offshore Leasing Program and urged the administration to include in the next program areas of the Outer Continental Shelf, including the Atlantic, Eastern Gulf of Mexico, and Arctic. Related: Forget Oil Prices, Oil Majors Are A Buy
The idea of drilling in the Atlantic, however, faces opposition even by some Republican governors of states along the Atlantic coast, so adding jobs from oil and gas production in the Atlantic is quite a long shot now.
Still, API has more chances to lobby and be heard in the current U.S. administration than the supporters and proponents of cleaner energy sources.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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