New oil & gas economic report tries to scare America into unfettered fracking

A new oil and gas industry-funded report concludes that protections for clean water, clean air, and American communities would lead to lower corporate profits and fewer jobs in the future. The report–-funded by the American Petroleum Institute, America's Natural Gas Alliance, the Natural Gas Supply Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the American Chemistry Council–-reads like something out of a bad mob movie racket scene. Cut to the oil and gas men menacingly threatening: "Nice economy ya got there... It would be a shame if something happened to it..."

The truth? This looks like corporate greed at its worst. The authors did not provide any details for regulatory changes that might lead to such negative outcomes, but nonetheless make the unfounded assertion that health and environmental protections would be job-killers.

It’s not surprising that the oil and gas industry would like to scare the American public into thinking we must sacrifice our health, safe drinking water, property values and communities in order to keep our jobs. But it’s simply not true. And the industry is not entitled to move—literally—into America's backyards to further fill their sizeable bank accounts at the expense of American’s health and the environment, or to use scare tactics to get there.

Safeguards don’t stand in the way of jobs or economic benefits; in fact, they can create more. Environmental protection can provide more employment opportunities in manufacturing, installation and maintenance of new equipment, and the use of cleaner and safer methods. That’s good news for our economy.

On top of that, industry's reported fracking job and economic projections have come under attack  for being inflated and based on poor methodology. Last year, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center analyzed a report published by the same organization and found that it "makes the same inflated claims about gas drilling's impact on job growth and tax revenue as previous industry studies that have been widely discredited. At the same time, the report completely ignores the costs that drilling imposes on citizens, the environment, states and local communities."

Other things this latest report doesn't tell you when making bold economic promises:

  • Natural gas development can lead to economic losses. While some people benefit from signing their land over to big oil and gas, others come out losing—not only if the companies don’t find much gas, or they signed a bad deal, but if their property values are ruined due to contaminated water, toxic waste dumped on their land, or dangerous air pollution in their community.
  • Industry economic projections don’t account for the costs of their pollution, such as health care costs, remediation, lost property values, and more.  
  • Communities suffer from boom-and-bust cycles that are inherent in oil and gas development. They are faced with increased costs for education, hospitals, courts, police, and other municipal and social services, as well as massive infrastructure needs.

A lot of this natural gas is used for electricity, where instead our priority should be energy efficiency and renewable sources. Real job creating opportunities exist in the clean energy sector that will power us into the future, in good times and bad. While the oil and gas industry laid off 10,000 workers during the recession, renewable energy companies added a half million jobs between 2003 and 2010. In fact, the renewable energy industry has grown at twice the rate of the overall economy, and green jobs employ 2.7 million Americans – that's more than the entire fossil fuels industry combined, even if you count jobs like gas station employees. On top of this, these jobs help to build a cleaner, safer energy future that preserves our air, water, wildlife habitat, and human health.

To sum it up:

  • Americans don’t have to sacrifice their health and safety for corporate profit.
  • Safeguards actually create jobs.
  • Industry projections are overblown.
  • And the clean energy industry can put people back to work in much greater numbers.

About the Authors

Amy Mall

Senior Policy Analyst, Land & Wildlife program

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