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Six-State Study Confirms Job Numbers Exaggerated by Fracking Industry

Fracking
Six-State Study Confirms Job Numbers Exaggerated by Fracking Industry

Drilling in the six states that span the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations has produced far fewer new jobs than the industry and its supporters claim, according to a report released today by the Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative, a group of state-level research organizations tracking the impacts of shale drilling.

The oil and gas industry promised shale drilling would bring jobs to states that lie above the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations.

“Industry supporters have exaggerated the jobs impact in order to minimize or avoid altogether taxation, regulation and even careful examination of shale drilling,” said Frank Mauro, executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute in New York.

Shale drilling has created jobs, particularly in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and cushioned some drilling-intensive areas in those states from the worst effects of the Great Recession and the weak recovery. As this report documents, however, the number of shale jobs created is far below industry claims and remains a small share of overall employment.

“This report shows very few shale-related jobs created in Ohio,” said Amanda Woodrum, energy researcher at Policy Matters Ohio. “If Pennsylvania and West Virginia are indicators of what we can expect in Ohio, employment in Ohio’s shale industry will continue to be very modest.”

The Marcellus and Utica shale formations span six states: New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia. Natural gas development in these six states was fueled by high commodity prices from 2000 to 2008. As prices have declined more recently, gas drilling activity has slowed while development of higher-priced oil has accelerated.

“Shale drilling has made little difference in job growth in any of the six states we studied,” said Stephen Herzenberg, executive director of the Keystone Research Center in Pennsylvania. “We know this because we now have data on what happened, not what industry supporters hoped would happen.”

Recent trends are consistent with the boom and bust pattern that has characterized extractive industries for decades. It also points to the need for state and local policymakers to collaborate to enact policies that serve the public interest.

“West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio have a long history with the ‘resource curse’ of coal and oil extraction that has provided wealth for a few but left a legacy of environmental degradation and poverty in their wake,” said Herzenberg. “Pennsylvania and its neighbors must not repeat the mistakes of the past.”

Key findings from the new report include:

  • While shale-related employment growth has made a positive contribution to job growth, the number of jobs created is far below industry claims and remains a small share of overall employment in the region.

    • Between 2005 and 2012, fewer than four new direct shale-related jobs have been created for each new well drilled, much less than estimates as high as 31 direct jobs per well in some industry-financed studies.
    • Region-wide, shale-related employment accounts for just one out of every 795 jobs. By contrast, education and health sectors account for one out of every six jobs.
    • Job growth in the industry has been greatest (as a share of total employment) in West Virginia. Still, shale-related employment is less than one percent of total West Virginia employment and less than half a percent of total employment in all the other states.

  • Many of the core extraction jobs existed before the emergence of hydrofracking.

    • Together, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia had 38 percent of all producing wells in the country in 1990 and 32 percent in 2000.
    • Some counties with a long history of mineral extraction have experienced a shift in employment from coal to shale extraction.

  • Industry employment projections have been overstated.

    • Some industry supporters have equated “new hires” with “new jobs” and attributed ancillary job figures to shale drilling even when they have nothing to do with drilling.
    • Industry-funded studies have used questionable assumption in economic modeling to inflate the number of jobs created in related supply chain industries (indirect jobs) as well as those created by the spending of income earned from the industry or its suppliers (induced jobs).

  • Drilling is highly sensitive to price fluctuations, which means that job gains may not be lasting.

    • In some counties, employment gains have been reversed as drilling activity shifted to more lucrative oil shale fields in Ohio and North Dakota.
    • Direct shale-related employment across the six-state Marcellus/Utica region fell over the last 12 months for which there are data—the first quarter 2012 to the first quarter 2013.

“While shale development has been important to West Virginia’s ongoing economic recovery, it is less than one percent of the state’s employment mix,” said Ted Boettner, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy. “This means policymakers need to make the important public investments in higher education and workforce development that will diversify our economy and make it stronger over the long-term.”

“To paraphrase John Kennedy, policymakers approaching shale issues should ‘ask not what you can do for your gas company, ask what you can do for your state,’” said Mauro

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

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With more and more global attention on the climate crisis, celebrity endorsement of environmental causes has become more common. But why do environmental causes recruit famous faces for their campaigns? And what difference can it make?

'Count Me In'

"We need celebrities to reach those people who we cannot reach ourselves," says Sarah Marchildon from the United Nations Climate Change secretariat (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany.

Marchildon is a proponent of the use of celebrities to raise awareness of environmental causes. In addition to promoting a selection of climate ambassadors who represent the UN on sustainability issues, Marchildon's team has produced videos with well-known narrators from the entertainment world: among them, Morgan Freeman and Mark Ruffalo.

"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," Marchildon explains.

"Sometimes they reach out to us themselves, as David Attenborough did recently. And then they can promote the videos on their own social channels which reach more people than we do — for example, if they have 20 million followers and we have 750,000."

Environmental groups focused on their own domestic markets are also taking this approach. One Germany-based organization that uses celebrities in campaigns is the German Zero NGO. Set up in 2019, it advocates for a climate-neutral Germany by 2035.

German Zero produced a video in March 2020 introducing the campaign with "66 celebrities" that supported the campaign, among them Deutschland 83 actor Jonas Nay and former professional footballer Andre Schürrle. They solicit support as well as financial contributions from viewers.

"Count me in," they say, pointing toward the camera. "You too?"

"We are incredibly grateful for the VIPs in our videos," says German Zero spokeswoman Eva-Maria McCormack.

Assessing Success Is Complex

But quantifying the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement of campaigns is not a straightforward process.

"In order to measure effectiveness, first of all you need to define what is meant by success," says Alegria Olmedo, a researcher at the Zoology Department at the University of Oxford.

Olmedo is the author of a study looking at a range of campaigns concerning pangolin consumption, fronted by local and Western celebrities, in Vietnam and China. But she says her biggest stumbling block was knowing how to measure a campaign's success.

"You need a clear theory of change," explains Olmedo. "Have the celebrities actually helped in achieving the campaign's goals? And how do you quantify these goals? Maybe it is increased donations or higher engagement with a cause."

A popular campaign in China in recent years saw famous chefs Zhao Danian and Shu Yi pledge to abstain from cooking endangered wildlife. While the pledge achieved widespread recognition, both Olmedo and Marchildon say it's difficult to know whether it made any difference to people's actions.

"In life we see a thousand messages every day, and it is very hard to pinpoint whether one campaign has actually made a difference in people's behavior," she explains.

Awareness Is Not Enough

Many campaigns that feature celebrities focus on raising awareness rather than on concrete action — which, for researcher Olmedo, raises a further problem in identifying effectiveness.

"Reach should never be a success outcome," she says. "Many campaigns say they reached a certain number of people on social media. But there has been a lot of research that shows that simply giving people information does not mean they are actually going to remember it or act upon it."

But anecdotal evidence from campaigns may suggest reach can make an active difference.

"Our VIP video is by far the most watched on our social media channels," McCormack from German Zero says. "People respond to it very directly. A lot of volunteers of all ages heard about us through that video."

However, some marketing studies have shown that celebrity endorsement of a cause or product can distract from the issue itself, as people only remember the person, not the content of what they were saying.

Choosing the Right Celebrity

Celebrity choice is also very important. Campaigns that use famous faces are often aiming to appeal to members of the public who do not necessarily follow green issues.

For certain campaigns with clear target audiences, choosing a climate scientist or well-known environmentalist rather than a celebrity could be more appealing — Attenborough is a classic example. For others, images and videos involving cute animals may be more likely to get a message heard than attaching a famous face.

"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," says Marchildon from the UN. "You need figures with credibility."

McCormack cites the example of Katharine Hayhoe, an environmental scientist who is also an evangelical Christian. In the southern United States, Hayhoe has become a celebrity in her own right, appealing to an audience that might not normally be interested in the messages of climate scientists.

But as soon as you get a celebrity involved, campaigns also put themselves at risk of the whims of that celebrity. Prince William and younger members of the royal family have come under fire in recent years for alleged hypocrisy for their backing of environmental campaigns while simultaneously using private jets to fly around the world.

But Does It Really Work?

While environmental campaigns hope that endorsement from well-known figures can boost a campaign, there is little research to back this up.

"The biggest finding [from my study] was that we were unable to produce any evidence that shows that celebrity endorsement of environmental causes makes any difference," says Olmedo.

This will come as a blow to many campaigns that have invested time and effort into relationships with celebrity ambassadors. But for many, the personal message that many celebrities offer in videos like that produced by German Zero and campaigns like the Earthshot Prize are what counts.

The research may not prove this conclusively — but if the public believes a person they respect deeply personally cares about an important issue, they are perhaps more likely to care too.

"I personally believe in the power this can have," says Marchildon. "And if having a celebrity involved can get a single 16-year-old future leader thinking about environmentalist issues — that is enough."

Reposted with permission from DW.

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