Dirty Energy Job Numbers Don't Add Up

A foolproof way to sell an idea to the American public is to link that idea to jobs. If you are able to convince them that your proposal will either preserve jobs already in place, or even better, create new jobs, it makes it much more difficult to ignore. 

This is why the promise of jobs has been used to sell the Keystone XL pipeline to the public, and the concept of preserving jobs has been used to fight the tightening of safety standards for the coal industry.

In both of those examples, the dirty energy industry has grossly inflated the net economic benefit of their activities, but that hasn’t stopped politicians and pundits from parroting those same “job creation” talking points to the national media.

The “job creator” talking points have proven to be so successful for the dirty energy industry that they have begun using them to defend everything from their $4 billion a year in federal tax subsidies, to their $1 trillion in net profits over the last decade.  They can’t be the bad guys because they employ millions of hard-working Americans, so their story goes.

But when you stop to analyze the industry’s numbers, numbers that they’ve sworn are accurate in front of Congress, the math simply doesn’t add up.

The industry claims that they currently support 9.2 million jobs in America, which they say supports a staggering 7.7% of the entire U.S. economy. These numbers come from written testimony to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources from American Petroleum Institute (API) president Jack Gerard. Mr. Gerard spouted these numbers as a way to protect and justify his industry’s gross profits and federal subsidies.

The Center for American Progress (CAP) decided to take a deeper look into Gerard’s claims, and their findings show that these numbers have been exaggerated by 484%.

CAP’s investigation uncovered the true number of dirty energy jobs in America, and the accurate figure is about 1.9 million direct jobs.  To be fair, Gerard and API’s 9.2 million figure did include “indirect jobs” – those that are created as a result of industry jobs created – and CAP did not include these in their calculations.

But there is a good reason why indirect jobs were not included in CAP’s report. Those numbers are virtually impossible to tally, as the creation of an outside job could be attributed to any job created in the area – from fast food to coal mining – and are, therefore, not tied directly to a particular industry.

Sustaining 1.9 million jobs might still seem like a hefty sum, but that number becomes significantly less meaningful when you factor in gas station jobs, which account for a little more than 850,000 jobs in the industry. These jobs are typically minimum wage positions that do not carry any type of benefits (health insurance, paid leave, etc.) for their employees.

Gerard’s 9.2 million job figure came from an industry-funded study a few years earlier, according to CAP. Meanwhile, the figures used in CAP’s study came from a verifiable source – the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Using the real numbers instead of the industry’s unverifiable figures shows that the dirty energy industry accounts for 1.5% of the total U.S. economy, not 7.7% as API wants us to believe. To put that into perspective, fast food restaurants account for 4% of the U.S. economy. 

The dirty energy industry knows how to make a sale to the American public, and that’s why they continue to push job numbers that are completely fabricated. It works very well, and the likelihood of the average American voter taking the time to look for the truth is almost nonexistent, which gives them a free pass to tell any story that makes them look better.