Union Workers Prefer Natural Gas, Oil Sector Employment, Surveys Find

As proponents of unrealistic, extreme environmental policies tout a smooth transition for workers entering the “green” energy job market, a new analysis suggests otherwise, finding energy construction projects in the natural gas and oil sector are the favored choice among employees.

Natural gas and oil industry sector-projects are higher paying, provide better health and retirement benefits, have more long-term job growth opportunities, and are more stable careers than jobs in renewable energy, according to a national survey of union and nonunion workers by North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU).

“The results found quality job opportunities in oil and natural gas construction, and both union and non-union energy construction workers report that oil and natural gas jobs are better overall careers for them,” NABTU’s release states.

Positions in the natural gas field also have more project variability and better skill development opportunities than jobs on solar and wind farms, workers said, providing a higher quality job experience and boosting workplace morale. As one electrical tradesman voiced in his response, “[windmills] are pretty much a cookie cutter of each other. It can become repetitive.”

NABTU’s findings stemmed from focus group conversations, including one in Pittsburgh, spanning across the country with workers from a variety industries and trades.

The report comes among rank and file union voters in key battleground areas express concern over climate policies that could jeopardize their careers.

Jim Kunz, business manager, IUOE Local 66: “This [Biden-Sanders Unity Taskforce Initiative] talks about all of these jobs that we’re gonna have from clean energy, but I don’t know what they are. Wind and solar are not gonna provide the same level of jobs that natural gas does, and, in all honesty, other fossil fuels.”

Jim Snell, business agent, Steamfitters Local 420: “I am completely shocked and stunned about the language coming from Joe Biden, allegedly a union guy. The Democratic Party has kicked the building trades to the curb, and they are all in with the environment groups.”

Jeff Nobers, executive director, Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania: “To promote an either-or approach to their “solution,” and suggesting additional jobs are unlikely to come to fruition is not only misleading, but ironically counter-productive to their position. To realize their supposed-alternative plan, they will need manufacturing powered and supplied by natural gas, as well as countless more raw materials sourced both at home and abroad.”

Even Jason Walsh, executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance – a pro-renewable energy unionization group – is skeptical of the movement acting too quickly:

“Until the job-quality gap is closed, unions and their allies will rightly push back on the notion that replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy is an across-the-board, slam-dunk public good.”

Walsh’s comments are mirrored by concerns of the lack of available job opportunities with wind and solar in comparison to the upstream, midstream, and downstream sectors, especially in the Appalachian Basin.

“You can’t just interchange the jobs from oil and gas construction to renewables construction, because you’ll leave out many workers, you’ll leave out many crafts, and you won’t have those pathways into the middle class that these good jobs provide,” said Tom Kriger, NABTU’s director of education and research.

In Pennsylvania, residents and policymakers alike recognize the critical need of good paying, middle-class jobs, and how our abundant natural gas supply unlocks great potential for economic growth in the Commonwealth – particularly for downstream use in manufacturing.

KDKA-TV recently reported, too, that both candidates in what’s expected to be one of the most closely contested U.S. House races in the state support natural gas and oil development:

“Here in western Pennsylvania, natural gas drilling is still very prominent…so that we can keep making steel, keep making all petrochemicals, keep making these kinds of things that we make here,” Congressman Conor Lamb (D – Pa.) said. Lamb says you can support both local energy and the environment.

What’s more, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed House Bill 732 – with broad bipartisan majorities –establishing a local resource manufacturing tax credit designed to incentivize companies to invest in Pennsylvania, create good-paying union jobs, and use reliable Pennsylvania natural gas for operations. Governor Tom Wolf signed the bill into law today.

“We stand with the hard-working men and women of Pennsylvania’s union building trades in support of this bipartisan plan to create hundreds of good-paying manufacturing jobs that provide family-sustaining wages and benefits, MSC’s Spigelmyer said of the plan. “Natural gas is creating generational manufacturing growth – the lifeblood of a thriving middle-class – and this plan would help accelerate the Commonwealth’s economic future.”