A major fossil fuel trade group promotes extremely misleading claims about the number of Americans working in the fracking industry, a clear attempt to defend the economically struggling industry that is linked to air, water and climate pollution.
A new Food & Water Watch analysis shows that the jobs claims advanced by the American Petroleum Institute (API) — which are regularly repeated by industry-friendly politicians and media outlets —massively overstate the actual number of Americans employed in the industry. The group’s methodology relies on including an astonishing number of retail and gas station workers as being ‘employed’ in the oil and gas industry.
Most recently, API has claimed that 7.5 million jobs would be at risk if fracking were banned, including over half of a million in Pennsylvania alone (which would mean that about 10 percent of all private sector jobs in the state are linked to the oil and gas industries). This far exceeds estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which counts 636,000 total jobs, and 26,000 in Pennsylvania.
The API numbers rely on massively overcounting both jobs directly related to the industry, and the ‘indirect’ and ‘induced’ jobs it deems associated with drilling. This results in inflated estimates that includes jobs in a wide range of industries, including fertilizer and chemical manufacturing. More absurdly, it even includes jobs at gas stations and convenience store workers, who account for nearly 35 percent of all “oil and gas industry” jobs.
The API figures also inflate the number of employees working directly in the industry (oil/gas extraction, support activities for oil/gas, and workers drilling wells). In its most recent study, API counts 685,000 workers in extraction, compared to 143,000 from BLS.
Food & Water Watch created a model that more accurately reflects the actual number of jobs in the industry in five categories (oil and gas extraction; support activities for oil and gas operations; drilling oil and gas wells; oil and gas pipeline construction; and pipeline transportation). These five sectors accounted for 621,504 jobs in 2017, and 685,534 in 2018.
According to API’s faulty reports, in 2017 there were at least 1,243,800 workers in these sectors.
This analysis comes at a crucial political moment: The fracking industry has been hard-hit by the COVID-19 economic downturn, and drilling companies are desperate to be included in any federal bailout packages. And the issue of a national fracking ban has played a prominent role in the presidential campaign, with many warning that Democrats calling for a ban would suffer tremendously in heavily fracked swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania.
“It’s more important than ever to accurately assess how many workers are employed in the oil and gas fracking industries. For years, the industry has concocted wildly inflated employment numbers in an effort to blunt criticism of the toll that fracking has taken on our air, water, and climate,” said Food & Water Watch Research Director Alison Grass. “Our analysis offers convincing evidence that employment benefits of fracking have been overhyped to manipulate the public and policymakers. Frackers have been far more effective at creating illusions than jobs.”