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INDUSTRY SAYS TRANSITION WON’T BE EASY: An abiding premise of the fossil-to-carbon-free energy transition is that displaced workers in the oil, gas, and coal industries will take up new jobs supporting wind, solar, and other projects.
“When I think of climate change, I think of — and the answers to it — I think of jobs,” President Joe Biden said in January after he signed an executive order laying out his climate change priorities.
But a new report from data firm Cicero Group, the North America's Building Trades Unions, and the American Petroleum Institute challenges the notion that moving affected workers around would be as easy to accomplish or as desirable to the workers themselves as is passingly pitched by Democratic policymakers.
The study, which looked at the 18 most prevalent occupations in the oil and gas industry, as well as the 18 most in-demand occupations related to clean energy, concluded that just two of the 18 top oil and gas jobs are “reasonably transferable” — a standard determined by job requirements, quality, and availability factors.
Across the three occupational categories, one job from the technical-trade grouping is considered transferable: construction laborers. Under the management-professional occupations category, general and operations managerial jobs were deemed transferable. The single oil and gas sales job in the study’s top 18 did not reasonably transfer, the analysis found.
The report also found that “wind and solar farms are more likely to require fewer skilled trades workers, from a narrower selection of trades, compared to oil and natural gas construction and maintenance projects” and that the most prevalent oil and gas occupations employ 10 times as many workers as the average number of annual job postings for the most in-demand clean energy occupations.
An obvious counter to the latter data point is that the number of clean energy annual job postings would be expected to see a major increase following passage of federal legislation, like the Build Back Better Act, subsidizing renewable and other carbon-free technologies.
In any case, the oil and gas industry argues the findings are a clear demonstration as to why policymakers should support fossil fuel use, even while pursuing emissions reductions (an outright paradox to climate hawks).
“The reality is that transferring workers to the renewable energy sector from careers in oil and natural gas … is fraught with challenges,” API vice president for policy Frank Macchiarola wrote in a blog post, citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that direct oil and gas industry jobs pay 80% more than the average job in the U.S.
The jobs and the unions: Some labor leaders, a major constituency targeted by Democrats, who are resisting policies to scale back or seek to extinguish oil and gas have made the same point as Macchiarola.
“These are really good jobs — really good, blue-collar union jobs,” said Shawn Steffee, who as business manager of the Boilermakers Local 154 in Pennsylvania represents industrial welders, equipment operators, and other workers who build gas-fired power and petrochemical plants.
“These men and women who work in them, they are highly skilled tradesmen and women,” Steffee told Jeremy in a recent interview, arguing that the jobs and the fuels can’t be easily replaced with renewable or other alternatives. “It’s just something that we don't want to see go away.”
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PROGRAMMING NOTE: Daily on Energy will not publish on Wednesday or the following days as we celebrate Christmas and the New Year. It will be back in your inboxes on Monday, January 3. Enjoy the holidays!
MINING UNION ASKS MANCHIN TO ‘REVISIT’ SPENDING BILL OPPOSITION: The head of the United Mine Workers of America, which represents coal mining and manufacturing constituencies, is pressing Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin to think again about opposing the Democrats’ social and climate spending bill.
UMWA International President Cecil Roberts pointed to items in the spending bill which the union supports, such as an extension of the current fee imposed on coal companies to pay for benefits of workers stricken with Black Lung and a provision to penalize employers that deny workers their rights to form a union.
“For those and other reasons, we are disappointed that the bill will not pass. We urge Senator Manchin to revisit his opposition to this legislation and work with his colleagues to pass something that will help keep coal miners working,” Roberts said in a statement after making note of a “ long and friendly relationship” with the senator.
Roberts’s statement is notable, considering that one of Manchin’s top stated reasons for opposing the spending bill was its provisions meant to accelerate the energy transition away from coal and other fossil fuels and the possibility that such measures would hurt West Virginia workers. “[Reducing emissions] at a rate that is faster than technology or the markets allow will have catastrophic consequences for the American people,” he said.
BICAMERAL GOP GROUP BACKS COAL IN SUPREME COURT CASE: A group of 47 Republican senators and 44 House members signed onto an amicus curiae brief in support of petitioning coal states and firms who are in the Supreme Court challenging whether EPA has the authority to regulate power plant emissions.
The amici, led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and House Energy and Commerce ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers, argue that any regulatory regime like the Obama-era Clean Power Plan (or something even more stringent) is beyond EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act and that “decisions regarding emissions and the power sector are major policy questions with vast economic and political significance” which “only elected members of Congress” may decide.
Rodgers said separately the lawmakers filed the brief “to remind the Court that when Congress decides to address important issues, it expresses what it wants to do explicitly and deliberately.”
“It’s simply unconstitutional for the EPA to make up sweeping new authorities where none exist just because the President wants to transform our country’s power sector,” she said in a statement provided to Jeremy.
The high court will consider whether the Clean Air Act provided EPA the authority to consider the climate impact of the power sector's carbon emissions and to enforce "outside the fence" emissions regulations, or those that apply to stationary sources at a regional or national level rather than an individual facility level.
A GAO WAKEUP CALL ON CARBON CAPTURE: The government’s top watchdog is warning Congress to make some changes to the Department of Energy’s carbon capture and storage demonstration program or risk wasting more taxpayer money on failed projects.
The department has spent some $1.1 billion CCS demonstrations for coal and industrial facilities but only three of 11 projects were ultimately built, the Government Accountability Office says in a new report released yesterday. The single successful coal CCS project, built at the W.A. Parish Electric Generating Station in Texas, was completed in 2016 and operated for three years before closing down in 2020 for financial reasons. Meanwhile, the two successful industrial CCS projects remain in operation.
GAO found that the coal projects selected for demonstration were stricken with “diminishing economic prospects” due to volatility in fuel commodity markets, especially the displacing effect that cheap natural gas had on coal. The agency concluded that DOE’s selection process for projects was too swift and lacked proper reviews, “increasing the risk of funding projects that were unlikely to succeed,” and recommended that Congress enact a better oversight mechanism for CCS demonstration funding.
Poor results for CCS demonstration has major implications not only for the Biden administration’s clean energy goals but for those of Republicans, a number of whom have supported CCS as a means of reducing emissions while still maintaining fossil fuel use.
GAO’s report could serve as more fodder for CCS’s opponents in Congress like Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna, who has insisted the technologies are “not going to work” and has shunned fossil fuels, urging the introduction of more renewable energy sources instead.
GLOBAL OIL DISCOVERIES HEADED FOR DECADESLONG LOW: New oil and gas discoveries around the globe are projected to hit a 75-year low in 2021 without any major finds through the end of December, per a new Rystad Energy analysis.
New discovered volumes through November were calculated at 4.7 billion barrels of oil equivalent globally, putting the industry on track for its lowest discovered quantity since 1946. For comparison, some 12.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent were discovered in 2020, a year that was mired by the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanied by a major slowdown in oil production.
The analysis was released after some analysts and oil executives earlier this month warned the world against underinvesting in fossil fuel production, saying that maintaining current relatively low levels of investment would ensure that high energy prices remain a constant of the global economy.
EPA FINALIZES RULE FOR PFAS MONITORING: The EPA yesterday finalized the Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule to establish nationwide monitoring for 29 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, and lithium in drinking water. Under the UCMR, EPA monitors drinking water systems for priority unregulated contaminants every five years.
EPA in October announced a new “roadmap” for addressing pollution from PFAS to expand the agency’s regulation of the “forever chemicals,” which are commonly used in firefighting foams and household products such as nonstick pans. The plan detailed the agency’s intention to categorize PFAS as hazardous substances under federal law to hold companies financially responsible for contamination related to their products, and to expand testing for the chemicals in fish.
Bloomberg Russia aims to make carbon-tax system that EU will recognize
Wall Street Journal Battery storage soars on US electric grid
WEDNESDAY | JAN. 12
10 a.m. The American Petroleum Institute and Energy Citizens host the 13th annual 2022 “State of Energy” forum.