November 1st, 2020 by Steve Hanley
During the last presidential debate, Joe Biden made a commitment to transitioning America away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy. Some observers thought that was a mistake, particularly for battleground states like Pennsylvania, which has a large oil and gas industry operating within its borders. The current temporary occupant of the Oval Office likes to snarl about making America great again but what he really wants is to drag America backward to 100 years ago when John D. Rockefeller was creating the foundations for the US oil and gas industries.
Back then, nobody worried about atmospheric pollution, toxic sludge that turned our rivers into fire hazards, or global heating. There were few if any regulations governing corporate behavior and that’s exactly the situation the current administration holds up as a model for America today.
There is no recognition that burning fossil fuels is the leading cause of the impending climate emergency. There is no thought for the poor who find themselves crammed into neighborhoods surrounded by oil refineries, pipelines, chemical factories, and toxic air. The story Republicans are peddling is that unbridled and unfettered capitalism is the hallmark of a great nation. Any two year old knows such an idea is pure sophistry.
If the Earth is going to continue to provide a home to humans, we need to stop pouring carbon dioxide and methane emissions into the atmosphere. The problem is, most human prosperity is based on the energy that comes from burning fossil fuels. The US government has been taken over top to bottom by apologists for the fossil fuel companies. Big Oil in its various guises owns every Republican member of Congress, the executive branch, and the courts. It’s a virtual lockout for the Drill, Baby, Drill crowd. That has to change.
Awareness of climate change is surging all across America but still many people support Big Oil and fracking, particularly in Pennsylvania. In the 2016 election, the incumbent won all 20 of that state’s Electoral Collage votes due to outpolling his challenger by a razor thin 44,000 vote margin out a total of just over 7 million registered voters. His message about jobs appeals strongly to people who work in the oil and gas industry but are his claims that electing Joe Biden will cause massive job losses in the state accurate?
20,000 Lies And Counting
That should be an easy question to answer since he has told more than 20,000 lies since taking office in 2017 but when it’s your job that’s on the line, people vote their own personal interest rather than what may be best for society. So let’s examine those claims and see whether they stand up to scrutiny.
Much of the discussion comes down to unions. Citing statistics supplied by the US Department of Labor, Reuters says 18% of workers in the oil and gas industries are members of a union while only 4% of workers in renewable energy jobs are union members. Also, the number of workers needed to keep a solar or wind farm operational after is it built is typically lower than the number needed to keep the oil and gas industry functioning. On the other hand, boom and bust cycles are the norm in the fossil fuel industry. Workers making a 6 figure income today often find themselves in the unemployment line tomorrow.
“There is no doubt we will suffer some job loss because of this transition, but there will be opportunity,” Lonny Stephenson, a member of Biden’s transition team and president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers tells Reuters. Biden campaign spokesman Matt Hill says his candidate will work with labor leaders to “ensure that clean energy investments are creating jobs with the opportunity to join a union across all energy sectors.”
Selling clean energy as an economic boon is critical to gaining union support in fossil fuel sectors says Jason Walsh, president of the Blue Green Alliance, an association of labor unions and environmental groups. It is supporting Joe Biden. “Labor will only fully endorse this shift to a clean energy economy if their rank and file members are getting jobs,” he said.
Social Justice And The Energy Transition
The question of protecting workers during a transition to new technologies pertains to more than the energy sector. Automobile manufacturers acknowledge fewer workers will be needed to build electric cars than those powered by gasoline or diesel engines. And yet, eliminating vehicles with internal combustion engines is vital to prevent average global temperatures from soaring so high that humans can no longer survive in most areas of the planet. The issue is one of social justice. We can go back to the way things were 100 years ago and pretend we can burn fossil fuels forever with no consequences. But rising sea levels, more powerful storms, and raging wildfires make global heating impossible to ignore.
So the question comes down to, who do you trust to protect American workers during a time of transition — president trump who never reads anything (in fact, he may well be illiterate and unable to read the briefing materials he is supplied with every day), or Joe Biden, a man who can take time out of his presidential campaign to help a young boy who stutters?
Professor Mark Jacobson of Stanford University and his colleagues have supplied the Solutions Project with the information needed to create the following graphic, which demonstrates how Pennsylvania can benefit from job growth in renewable energy.
Vote for truth
Transitioning #Pennsylvania to 100% clean, renewables, which eliminates #fracking and all fossils for all purposes, creates 230,000 more jobs than lost, reduces energy costs, and saves 3,000 lives/yr from pollutionhttps://t.co/pGaym7I46V https://t.co/6WG5sRWt4n
— Mark Z. Jacobson (@mzjacobson) November 1, 2020
“The Solutions Project is one of few organizations committed to ensuring that the transition to 100% clean energy is just, accessible, and affordable to low-income families and communities of color. We support their work because their grant-making program directs all resources to where they’re needed most,” says Dana Bourland of the JPB Foundation.
Jacobson has been a tireless and passionate advocate for renewable energy for many years and claims, as does Joe Biden, that the energy transition does not have to mean the loss of good paying jobs for those who work in the oil and gas industries.
No one is pretending there won’t be economic hardship for some workers. Robust programs to teach workers new skills will be needed. Who do you trust more to keep his word, Pennsylvania, Joe Biden or the other guy who lies every time he opens his mouth? Good, now make sure you vote. It has never been more important.
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