New report on the long term negative impacts of oil and gas development for communities

Headwaters Economics just released a study of 207 counties in the six major oil- and gas-producing states in the interior West: Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. They looked at these counties over 30 years of boom and bust energy development. Some of their key findings:

  • For counties that participated in the early 1980s oil and gas boom, per capita income declines with longer specialization in oil and gas.
  • Growth in the oil and gas sector is associated with higher crime rates.
  • The longer a county's economy has specialized in oil and gas, the higher the county’s crime rate.
  • Growth in the oil and gas sector is associated with declining educational attainment.

There's a much better alternative. Research has found that net job creation is substantially higher with clean energy investments than fossil fuels at different educational levels--and there are more types of all jobs in cleaner energy. 

Solar plants and wind farms are revitalizing rural communities and manufacturing towns, and adding critical sources of clean, domestic power to our energy supply. 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. 

On top of the economic benefits, clean energy from energy efficiency and renewable sources can help keep our air and water clean, keep families and communities healthy, and help fight poverty. That's the future Americans want for our country.

About the Authors

Amy Mall

Senior Policy Analyst, Land & Wildlife program

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