‘Groundbreaking’ Report Shows Promise of Greener Jobs for Former Fossil Fuel Workers

New analysis shows how California "can achieve a just and equitable transition away from fossil fuels for oil and gas workers."

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Workers install solar panels on the roofs of homes under construction in Corona, California on May 3, 2018. Will Lester / Inland Valley Daily Bulletin / Getty Images
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By Julia Conley

A new analysis out this past Tuesday shows how a just transition towards a green economy in California — one in which workers in the state’s fossil fuel industry would be able to find new employment and receive assistance if they’re displaced from their jobs — will be “both affordable and achievable,” contrary to claims from oil and gas giants and anti-climate lawmakers.

The study published by the Gender Equity Policy Institute (GEPI) notes that a majority of workers in the oil and gas sectors will have numerous new job opportunities as California pushes to become carbon neutral by 2045 with a vow to construct a 100% clean electricity grid and massively reduce oil consumption and production.

“The state will need to modernize its electrical grid and build storage capacity to meet increased demand for electricity,” reads the report. “Carbon management techniques, plugging orphan wells, and the development of new energy sources such as geothermal will all come into play, providing economic opportunities to workers and businesses alike.”

GEPI analyzed the most recent public labor data, showing that the oil and gas industries in California employed approximately 59,200 people as of 2021 across jobs in production, sales, transportation, legal, and executive departments, among others.

The group examined potential job opportunities for fossil fuel workers “in all growing occupations, not solely in clean energy or green jobs,” and found that about two-thirds of employees are likely to find promising opportunities outside of fossil fuel-related work.

“Our findings show that a sizable majority (56%) of current oil and gas workers are highly likely to find jobs in California in another industry in their current occupation, given demand in the broader California economy for workers with their existing skills,” the report says.

Roughly a quarter of oil and gas workers are employed in jobs that are projected to decline over the next decade, while 18% work in production and extraction, sectors which will contract as the state begins to move away from fossil fuel extraction.

“For all declining occupations in oil and gas industries, there are available jobs in similar occupations in California that would allow workers to transition without the need for retraining,” GEPI reported.

About 16,100 people who will be at risk of displacement into lower-paying jobs over the next two decades will be able to benefit from income subsidies and relocation assistance, which GEPI estimated would cost the state $68.9 million or less annually—far less than a 2021 estimate by the Department of Economics and Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, which said aid for displaced oil and gas workers would cost up to $830 million per year. Importantly, PERI’s estimate included pension guarantees and income-level guarantees while GEPI’s factored in only financial aid for people who face pay cuts.

GEPI’s study showed that “California can achieve a just and equitable transition away from fossil fuels for oil and gas workers,” said the Los Angeles-based advocacy group Climate Resolve.

“As the carbon neutral economy advances, supporting workers at risk of displacement from jobs in oil and gas industries is one important component of creating an equitable and sustainable future for all the people of California,” reads GEPI’s report. “These men and women are expected to be able to transition with ease to other industries without retraining or a period of unemployment.”

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.

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