Why Oil & Gas Workers Aren’t Too Keen on the ‘Just Transition’ Narrative

With their industry under assault, oil and gas workers are being assured they can simply transition to renewable energy jobs. John Kerry even recently quipped that oil and gas workers “can be the people who go to work to make solar panels.” Easy peasy, apparently.

So why is this “just transition” narrative being met with deep skepticism and even anger from oil and gas workers? Because the notion that a simple “transition” to jobs that typically pay less – or don’t even exist at all – is as misguided as the belief we can quickly pivot to 100 percent renewable energy.

A recent Energy Information Administration report provides a reality-check, finding the United States will likely continue to rely on oil and natural gas for just under 70 percent of its energy needs through at least 2050. Despite all the talk of the “end of oil” the EIA forecasts that “petroleum remains the most-consumed fuel in the United States” for decades. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland recently echoed the report’s findings, testifying, “There’s no question that fossil energy does and will continue to play a major role in America for years to come.”

So contrary to the “just transition” narrative, a robust U.S. oil and gas industry workforce will be needed for years to come – including Illinois’ proud oil and gas workforce.

Though most folks probably don’t think of Illinois as a major oil and gas industry state, a recent Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association (TIPRO) report serves as a reminder that the Land of Lincoln is home to four refineries, the second-largest crude oil storage facility in the country and an oil production industry that dates back more than a century. TIPRO finds the Illinois oil and gas industry generated $22 billion in economic activity last year, three percent of the state’s overall economy. The report also finds there were not only 16,000-plus oil and gas jobs in Illinois last year – 10th most in the country – but that those jobs paid an average salary of more than $104,000, 65 percent higher than the private sector average.

No wonder Illinois oil and gas workers aren’t clamoring to “transition” to renewable energy industry jobs that pay less and are far more temporary in nature. As Politico reported this week, a new report by the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO), the Energy Futures Initiative, and BW Research Partnership finds that, “Workers in the greener side of the energy industry earn significantly less than those who extract fossil fuels and run power plants…”

The report finds that U.S. oil industry workers earn a median wage of $26.59 per hour, while oil workers in the mining/extraction sectors specifically have a median wage of $37.67 per hour. The median wage for wind and solar industry workers is $25.95 per hour and $24.48 per hour, respectively.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show the most abundant U.S. “green” energy occupations – wind turbine technician and solar panel technician – pay $53,000 and $43,000 per year, respectively, both tens of thousands of dollars less than what the typical oil and gas worker makes. More than two-thirds of solar panel installation jobs are also temporary contract-based positions. These are just a few reasons why a recent survey of by a group of trade unions finds oil and gas jobs are viewed by skilled tradespeople as better paying and better long-term employment prospects than their renewable energy counterparts.

And when suggesting oil and gas workers can just go make solar panels, Kerry failed to mention that just one percent of solar panel manufacturing occurs in the United States. China (surprise, surprise) dominates the renewable infrastructure manufacturing industry and also has a near monopoly on the minerals that must be mined to manufacture renewable energy infrastructure. As Politico recently reported, “It’s a dirty truth. The U.S path to clean energy goes straight through China. … which controls a vast share of the minerals used in electric batteries, the cheap materials that make up solar panels and the guts of wind turbines.”

Common sense tells us we are going to need a lot of oil and gas for many years to come and that it’s imperative to produce as much of it here in the United States as possible. That cannot happen without the continued presence of a robust, experienced and skilled U.S. oil and gas industry workforce. That is why the “just transition” narrative is not only being met with skepticism by oil and gas workers, but a lot of pragmatic observers, in general.

Updated Report: Illinois Oil & Gas Reserves Generated $98.6M in Property Tax Revenue From 2007-2019

Note: This blog was updated with 2019 revenue on March 4, 2021.

Many Illinoisans may not be aware that the state’s active oil and natural gas production leases are assessed and taxed as real estate, similar to property taxes paid on a residential home. All of the revenue collected from this tax – known as an ad valorem tax – stays at the local level and goes directly to support the areas where oil is produced, including counties, villages, townships, cities, and – most importantly – local schools.

An IPRB review of the latest Illinois Department of Revenue (DOR) data shows that Illinois oil reserves generated $98.6 million in ad valorem tax revenue from 2007 to 2019, an average of more than $7.5 million per year. IPRB details this revenue in an updated annual report that can be downloaded here.

Typically, at least half of ad valorem property tax revenue is used to fund public education, while the remaining monies are used to fund various local public services. That fact noted, IPRB conservatively estimates that Illinois oil reserves generated at least $49.3 million in ad valorem tax revenue for schools in producing counties from 2007-2019. This revenue is all the more significant considering Illinois public schools were woefully underfunded by the state during this time frame, placing even more burden at the local level.

Ad valorem tax revenue from Illinois oil production has a particularly significant impact in major producing counties. IDOR data show that ad valorem tax revenue in Illinois’ top-15 oil producing counties totaled $87.9 million from 2007-2018, an average of more than $6.7 million per year.


IPRB conservatively estimates that at least $43.9 million of that revenue went to public schools in those top-15 producing counties.

It is important to note that many of these counties have relatively small populations and are relatively poor compared to many other state counties and the state as a whole. In fact, all but one of Illinois’ top oil producing counties (Crawford) have poverty rates that are higher than the national average – adding even more significance to the ad valorem tax revenue generated by oil and natural gas reserves in these counties. Just two percent of Illinois’ overall population resides in these top-15 producing counties, which are responsible for 90 percent of Illinois oil production.

Here are county-level breakdowns for Illinois’ top-15 producing counties featured in IPRB’s report:

It is important to understand that these taxes are based on estimates of oil and gas reserves remaining in the ground, not oil and natural gas produced. The annual ad valorem tax bill that operators and royalty owners receive is also based on data that is over two years old. For example, ad valorem taxes paid in 2017 were based on a 2016 assessment of active leases that is calculated using 2015 production totals. There are also reductions for leases based upon lease age, secondary recovery methods used and production.

As complicated as the ad valorem tax calculation system may be, it is clear that these taxes are generating significant revenues in the communities where they operate, specifically for local schools.


Illinois Oil Production Totaled 7.51 Million Barrels in 2020


Illinois crude oil production totaled 7,513,835 barrels in 2020, according to data compiled by the Illinois Petroleum Resources Board (IPRB) that is based on first-purchaser reports. Click here to view IPRB’s annual Illinois oil production report.

The state’s 2020 oil production was 8.9 percent below 2019 levels. A similar production drop was observed throughout the United States, as the COVID-19 pandemic-induced oil demand and price shock led to national production dropping 8.1 percent, from a record 12.3 million barrels per day in 2019 to 11.3 million barrels per day in 2020.

Though production was down significantly overall in Illinois last year, monthly production levels trended upward in the second half of the year as oil prices recovered modestly following the worst of the demand and oil price shock in the spring.

White County – by far the state’s top-producing county – actually saw strong production growth in 2020 despite the pandemic. White County oil production totaled 2,206,100 barrels in 2020 – a 7.6 percent increase from 2019 levels. White County has now topped 2 million barrels of production two years in a row and accounted it for just under 30 percent of the state’s production last year. White County’s annual production has more than doubled from levels seen just a decade ago.

The state’s top-15 producing counties – White, Marion, Crawford, Lawrence, Fayette, Wabash, Clay, Wayne, Franklin, Clark, Hamilton, Richland, Jasper, Gallatin and Jefferson – collectively produced 91 percent of the state’s oil in 2020. All 15 of those counties – as well as Edwards, Brown and Effingham counties – have recently passed Resolutions of Support for the Illinois oil production industry.


Report: Illinois Oil & Gas Industry Represented 3% of State’s Economy in 2020

Most folks probably don’t think of Illinois as a major oil and natural gas industry state. But the recently released Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association (TIPRO) 2021 State of Energy Report shows that perception doesn’t always align with reality.

Even coming off possibly the toughest year the industry has ever faced, the report finds that the Illinois oil and natural gas industry – including the upstream, midstream and downstream sectors – was responsible for $22 billion in Gross Regional Product (GRP) in 2020, representing three percent of the Land of Lincoln’s overall economy. The following Illinois fact sheet was featured in the report.

According to the report, the Land of Lincoln had 16,374 direct oil and natural gas industry jobs in 2020, placing it among the top-10 states in direct oil and natural gas industry employment. The report also shows Illinois oil and natural gas industry jobs pay an average of $104,840 a year – 65 percent higher than the private sector average. These are just a few of the many reasons Gov. JB Pritzker designated the oil and natural gas industry as “essential” when COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were first implemented. Illinoisans not only rely on the essential products and services our regional oil and natural gas industry provides, the industry itself is a major economic engine and employer in the state.

The TIPRO report tallies 1,741 Illinois upstream oil and natural gas industry jobs in 2020, a figure that does not include hundreds of non-payroll independent contractors that are not captured in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data used as the primary employment source of the report. Using the most recent U.S. Census Bureau Non-Employer Statistics Report, IPRB conservatively estimates more than 3,200 were directly employed in the Illinois “upstream” oil production industry last year. The upstream Illinois oil and gas industry also indirectly supports thousands of other jobs. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that the oil and natural gas extraction industry has one of the highest indirect job employment multipliers, where one direct job leads to an additional 5.43 indirect jobs.

Not surprisingly, the TIPRO report finds that Illinois upstream oil and natural gas production industry jobs were down 19 percent last year. The oil price demand and price shock created by the COVID-19 pandemic had an even bigger negative impact nationally, as upstream jobs were down 24 percent across the country. There were 359,410 upstream jobs (not including non-payroll independent contractors) in the U.S. last year, down 112,348 jobs compared to 2019. Oil and gas support and service industry jobs were hit particularly hard, down 77,393 jobs from 2019 (192,163).

Despite an undeniably tough year, direct U.S. oil and natural gas industry jobs still totaled 902,223 in in 2020, paying 86 percent higher than the private sector average ($113,601).

On the state level, the report also shows that there were 342 upstream oil and natural gas businesses in Illinois in 2020 and that 25 percent of the state’s oil and natural gas industry workforce is 55 or older, indicating there will be strong job demand going forward as a large share of the state’s workforce is at or near retirement age.

Check out IPRB’s recently updated Illinois oil and natural gas industry “By the Numbers” fact sheet for a snapshot of the importance of the industry in the state.


Draft DOE Study Indicates Illinois Basin Oil Production Methane Emissions Are Negligible

Preliminary results from a long-awaited U.S. Department of Energy marginal well methane emissions study have been released, and they confirm what even the Obama-era EPA acknowledged back in 2015: methane emissions from marginal production sites are “inherently low.”

The draft report – which was commissioned to fill a gaping data gap for wells that produce 15 barrels of less of oil per day or 90,000 cubic feet or less of natural gas per day – includes full results from first field campaign of the study, which included Illinois Basin marginal oil production sites. The Illinois Basin portion of the study is identified on the right side of the area labeled “5” on the following map featured in the draft report (view two-page summary here).

Among the most notable takeaways from that field campaign that included the Illinois Basin were:

  • 75 percent of the 87 oil sites evaluated had no detected emissions at all
  • 90 percent of observed emissions were less than 13 standard cubic feet per hour
  • 90 percent of emissions detected were from 12 percent of the sites
  • Two sites – an oil well that had a sucker rod packing issue on its pump jack (137 scfh) and a natural gas well with an open hole in the wellhead casing (156 scfh) – accounted for 40 percent of the overall emissions detected

It should be emphasized that the results are preliminary and the final report, which has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, is slated to be released in September 2021. However, the Illinois Basin field study portion of the report is complete, with the data presented in the draft version of the report providing the most definitive methane emissions profile of the Illinois Basin to date. And that profile shows methane emissions from the Illinois Basin are negligible. The following graphic summarizes the oil production site findings from the field campaign that included the Illinois Basin.

With regard to the field campaign that included the Illinois Basin specifically, the report notes:

“Overall, emission rate measurements from Field Campaign 1 [which included the Illinois Basin] exhibit the long-tail behavior commonly observed in air emissions studies (see Figures 6 and 7 in Section 3.6). Approximately 90% of the observed emissions were less than 13 standard cubic feet per hour (scfh), and 95% of the observed emissions were less than 25 scfh. The top 10% of emission sources contributed 72% of the total emissions observed…”

Why It Matters

The Obama administration eliminated the marginal well exemption from its 2016 methane rule despite the Obama-era EPA acknowledging in 2015 that methane emissions at marginal wells are likely “inherently low.” In absence of significant marginal well emissions data, the Obama-era EPA in 2016 began extrapolating reported leakage rates from larger facilities onto smaller facilities, basing this methodology on the flawed notion that they have similar leakage rates. Put another way, the decision to eliminate the marginal well exemption was justified largely by assumed proportion of total production emitted from marginal wells rather than actual total emissions.

The Obama-era decision to eliminate the marginal well exemption from the methane rule was also made despite the fact that there was no significant research on marginal wells that was sufficient enough to justify the need for doing away with the exemption. That is the primary reason the DOE/GSI Environmental marginal well methane study was commissioned during the Trump administration. As the draft version of the DOE report notes:

“Seventeen peer-reviewed papers published between 2010 and 2019 include evaluations of site-level emission measurements or estimates from approximately 9,000 production sites including approximately 25,000 wells spread across 13 major basins. Of this population, approximately 3,500 of the sites may be considered marginal and predominantly represent natural gas production, with very little representation of oil production.”

The preliminary results of the study show that the environmental benefit of marginal wells being subject to the methane rule would likely outweigh the significant financial costs the elimination of the exemption would have posed on small operators.

As the Obama-era EPA acknowledged in 2015, “many [marginal] well sites are owned and operated by small businesses.” The latter is especially true in the Illinois Basin, where there isn’t a single major publicly traded company with production operations and more than 90 percent of the state’s oil wells are marginal producers, compared to 70 percent of wells nationwide. In fact, a vast majority of Illinois oil wells are actually “stripper wells,” which are wells producing 10 barrels or less per day.

The Independent Petroleum Association of America has estimated that costs associated with purchasing equipment and needed to comply with the Obama-era methane rule would result in a total average price tag  more than $78,000 per operator.

As the DOE report shows, such costs would not only prove incredibly burdensome for small producers already dealing with low commodity prices, the elimination of the marginal well exemption – which was recently re-instated by the Trump administration – would provide no climate benefit. Fortunately, the DOE report will better inform the marginal well methane emission debate moving forward.

UPDATE: U.S. Led World in CO2 Reductions For 10th Time This Century Last Year

UPDATE: Dec. 3, 2020

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has projected U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will decline 10 percent this year, putting the United States on pace to lead the world in annual CO2 reductions for the 11th time this century.

Though the unfortunate economic disruption brought on by the coronavirus pandemic is likely responsible for most of the reductions this year, the reductions achieved over the past 15 years have largely been attributable to fuel switching to natural gas in the power sector.

Not only has increased natural gas use been the primary reason the United States leads the world in CO2 reductions this century, a recent Bloomberg BNEF report notes that the U.S. is now on track to meet its Paris climate accord reduction pledges, as the following IPRB graphic illustrates.

Original Post: July 2, 2020

BP’s recently released Statistical Review of World Energy 2020 shows that in 2019 the United States led all nations in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reductions for the 10th time this century. U.S. CO2 emissions fell 152 million metric tons in 2019, three percent below 2018 levels, according to BP.

This continues a trend that has been observed more often than not since since the turn of the century. In fact, BP data show that the U.S. has reduced CO2 emissions a world-leading 755 million metric tons since 2000, outpacing the next four leading nations combined.

Experts agree that fuel-shifting to clean-burning natural gas from higher-emitting fuels in the power sector is the primary reason the U.S. has achieved these reductions over the past decade-plus. For example, the International Energy Agency (IEA) recently noted:

“The United States saw the largest decline in energy-related CO2 emissions in 2019 on a country basis – a fall of 140 Mt, or 2.9%, to 4.8 Gt. US emissions are now down almost 1 Gt from their peak in the year 2000, the largest absolute decline by any country over that period. A 15% reduction in the use of coal for power generation underpinned the decline in overall US emissions in 2019. Coal-fired power plants faced even stronger competition from natural gas-fired generation, with benchmark gas prices an average of 45% lower than 2018 levels. As a result, gas increased its share in electricity generation to a record high of 37%.”

U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data show that from 2005 to 2018, a rapid shift to natural gas in the power sector reduced U.S. CO2 emissions 57 percent more than the emissions reductions realized through renewables, as the following Energy In Depth graphic shows.

However, despite the progress made by the United States and other nations that have achieved significant emissions reductions (four examples are listed in the graphic below) the BP report shows that overall global CO2 emissions increased 161 million metric tons in 2019.

This can be explained by another trend that has also been consistently observed in recent years. China’s CO2 emissions alone increased 319 million metric tons from 2018 to 2019, more than offsetting the United States’ declines.

So far this century, China’s emissions have increased by more than 6.4 billion metric tons, spiking at more than eight times the rate that U.S. emissions have declined over the same time-frame. Check out the following new IPRB infographic for perspective.

Considering China is already responsible for more than half of the world’s coal consumption and is ramping up coal consumption at the same time the U.S. and several other major countries are fuel-switching to clean-burning natural gas indicates these trends are unlikely to change any time soon. In fact, China has nearly as much new coal power generation in development as the United States had in operation last year, according to E&E News.

Due largely to the coronavirus pandemic – but also because of the continued trend of fuel-switching to natural gas and renewables – the EIA projects U.S. emissions will fall another 11 percent in 2020. The United States' world-leading CO2 reductions can largely be attributed to innovation in the oil and natural gas industry.

But climate change is a global issue, which is why it is important to understand the big picture when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. Based on simply math, it is clear that even the most onerous climate policies imposed in the United States and throughout the world will be not enough to offset rapidly increasing emissions from China.

6 Things to Know About New Department of Energy Report on Importance of Oil and Natural Gas

Much has changed since the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a 1999 report emphasizing the importance of oil and natural gas to the United States. But one thing has remained the same in the 21 years since: A general lack of knowledge about the prominent role of oil and natural gas in our country’s present and future prosperity remains.

It is with the latter reality in mind the DOE recently updated and re-released that report. Here are six things to know.

#1: The DOE Expects O&G’s Share of the US Energy Mix to Stay the Same Through 2040

The report notes that oil and natural gas’ share of the U.S. energy mix is currently near 70 percent, as the following graphic illustrates.

And despite all the hoopla about the “green” energy transition, the DOE expects oil and gas’ share of the energy mix to remain at nearly 70 percent through at least 2040.

As the report notes:

“Even after accounting for the steady growth of renewables, according to the EIA, oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids are projected to account for the majority – nearly 70 percent – of domestic energy consumption two decades from now.”

This completely debunks the “peak oil demand” narrative currently being pushed by “Keep It In the Ground” groups. For example, the Sierra Club recently published a piece headlined, “The End of Oil Is Near: The Pandemic May Send the Petroleum Industry to the Grave.” There are many reasons for the divide between the reality highlighted in the DOE report and the rhetoric pushed by the Sierra Club.

The next fact pulled from the DOE report is a prime example.

#2: Oil and Gas Are More Than Just Fuel

The DOE report emphasizes the fact that oil and natural gas are used for much more than combustible fuel for transportation, power generation and heating. Many Americans remain unaware that oil and natural gas liquids are essential feedstocks for countless products that make our high standard of living possible. From the report:

“Hydrocarbons like ethane are the core ingredient in plastics, and are essential to modern healthcare, agriculture, the automotive industry, construction products, consumer products, and even renewable energy. Ethane is a liquid hydrocarbon removed from natural gas during post-production processing. While a relatively small portion of liquid hydrocarbons (about seven percent) are used to produce non-energy products, these products’ omnipresence in our daily lives bears highlighting. We cannot live our 21st century lives without them.”

More than 6,000 everyday products are petroleum-based and 31 percent of U.S. petroleum use occurs outside of the transportation sector.

#3: Renewables Need Oil and Gas

Among the list of thousands of petroleum-based producers are components of renewable energy infrastructure. Petrochemicals are required to manufacture  solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, thermal insulation and electric vehicles.

With those facts in mind, the DOE report notes that we would still need significant quantities of oil and natural gas to accomplish the titanic transition to 100 percent renewable electricity generation that so many “Keep It In the Ground” groups advocate for. As the report notes:

“Even efforts to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels still require that we use hydrocarbons – derived from oil and natural gas – to create and maintain the products and technologies that make these alternative energy sources reliable and economically possible.”

“Lightweight, durable plastics produced with oil and natural gas are used by most wind turbine and solar panel manufacturers.”

The report also emphasizes that because wind and solar are intermittent energy sources. backup natural gas power generation will remain necessary for the foreseeable future. From the report:

“While the share of power produced by renewable energy sources like solar and wind is expected to grow, these sources are ‘intermittent’ – wind energy fluctuates with the wind intensity and solar energy fluctuates with cloud cover and nighttime darkness – so there has to be a reliable, secure means to provide continuous electricity to consumers. The larger the contribution of renewables to the electric power grid, the bigger this challenge can be.”

“An effective solution is installation of fast-ramp-up natural gas power plants, which can be switched into the power generation system quickly whenever renewable generation slips. Such plants are capable of reaching full power outputs of hundreds of megawatts in less than 30 minutes and can be scaled back quickly when the wind picks up or the sun comes out. This role for natural gas will continue until low-cost, environmentally sustainable, large-scale power grid batteries capable of storing solar or wind-generated energy and discharging it instantaneously are available.”

#4: Oil and Gas Are Essential to Modern Healthcare and Agriculture

Some might argue that many of the petroleum products and modern advances made possible by oil and natural gas emphasized above might be viewed as superficial luxury items that we can live without if need be. But the report highlights two examples of absolutely essential industries that have been greatly enhanced by oil and natural gas: healthcare and agriculture.

The report notes that oil and natural gas have revolutionized modern agriculture, helping feed an exploding global population. In addition to fueling modern agricultural machinery, the report notes:

“Natural gas is also a key ingredient for chemical fertilizers, helping increase crop production and yield per acre planted, and powering many important operations on the farm like crop drying.”

The report notes that the ongoing pandemic has placed emphasis on the importance of fundamental healthcare and the role of oil and natural gas in it.

“The global economic disruption associated with the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the complicated relationship between our energy supply, society’s economic strength, and humanity’s physical health. Supplies of oil and natural gas are critical to all of the sectors of society involved in fighting the virus – fueling first responder ambulances, powering hospitals, and providing raw materials for lifesaving drugs and the personal protective equipment needed by caregivers.”

It is largely because of advances in healthcare and agriculture – both made possible by oil and natural gas – that extreme poverty recently dropped below 10 percent for the first time in recorded history. Access to food, healthcare and modern energy have made life easier, and they are all made possible by oil and natural gas.

#5: Increased Oil and Gas Production Has Made the United States Energy Independent

The report notes that the United States has reversed its position from that of energy dependence to energy independence thanks to increased oil and natural gas production over the past decade-plus.

“Dramatic increases in domestic oil and natural gas production enabled the United States to move from being an energy importer to being a net energy exporter. This shift means we are no longer dependent on other countries to meet our domestic energy needs. As a growing supplier of natural gas to global markets, the United States is now in a position to help its allies worldwide power their economies.”

The United States was the world’s largest oil importer in 2008. As oil and natural gas liquids production increased 148 percent from 2007 to 2019, net petroleum imports decreased 95 percent. Just 13 years removed from being the world’s biggest energy importer, America is now on a trajectory to completely wipe out an energy trade deficit that peaked at $321 billion in 2011. Much to the chagrin of the hostile nations we once relied heavily on to meet our energy needs, what was once a glaring national weakness is now a strength, and our geopolitical position is as strong as its been in decades as a result.

#6: The Oil and Gas Industry Provides Hundreds of Thousands of Well-Paying Jobs and Boosts the Economy

The DOE report notes that the U.S. oil and natural gas industry provides quantity and quality when it comes to jobs. From the report:

“The domestic oil and natural gas extraction industry supports 896,000 jobs (as of the end of 2019), including both direct and indirect jobs. This consists of 158,000 direct jobs and an estimated 738,000 indirect jobs, such as service and supply jobs, as well as induced jobs. The Economic Policy Institute reports that the oil and natural gas extraction industry has one of the highest indirect job employment multipliers, where one direct job leads to an additional 5.43 indirect jobs.

“Last year, the average direct job in the oil and natural gas extraction industry had an annual average wage of $112,000, more than double the annual average wage of $51,000 for the private sector. … Non-supervisory direct jobs average annual wage of $88,000, about 70 percent higher than the average private sector wage.”

The loss of these jobs as a result of “Keep It In the Ground” policies would prove devastating to our economy and would only lead to increased imports from oftentimes hostile nations to meet our energy needs.

The report also notes that strong U.S. oil and natural gas production in recent years has saved Americans billions by keeping energy costs affordable. From the report:

“The lower oil and natural gas prices resulting from increased domestic oil and natural gas production provided $203 billion annual savings to U.S. consumers – equal to $2,500 per year for a family of four.”


As the DOE report notes, “… A seamless transition to a lower carbon future will depend on a steady supply of hydrocarbons to minimize economic disruption.” This is a fact that too few Americans are aware of. As the report clearly illustrates, it remains essential for the United States to produce as much as the oil and natural gas here as possible moving forward.

5 Positive US Oil and Natural Gas Facts Everyone Should Know

The U.S. oil and natural gas industry almost always finds itself on the defensive, responding to relentless attacks from the “Keep It In the Ground” movement. Largely under-emphasized or taken for granted – even by oil and natural gas industry proponents – are the myriad of undeniable positives that oil and natural gas bring to society.

With calls to “Keep It In The Ground” gaining more and more mainstream traction, it is more important than ever to remind folks that oil and natural gas are essential to modern life, with benefits that far outweigh its negatives. Here are five examples that every oil and natural gas industry proponent should know and proudly share.

#1: Oil and Gas Has Improved Both Quality and Length of Life

Access to affordable, reliable energy correlates directly improved living standards and longer life expectancy. That explains why the average life expectancy has doubled at the same time oil and natural as consumption has skyrocketed over the past century-plus. And as more and more of the world has gained access to reliable energy, the percentage of the global population living in extreme poverty has plummeted from more than 80 percent to below 10 percent for the first time in human history.


Those throughout the world who are currently living in extreme poverty have one thing in common – they lack access to the modern energy the rest of the world enjoys and takes for granted. Put another way, energy poverty is extreme poverty. Fossil fuels supply more than 80 percent of the world’s energy and have greatly improve quality of life by providing heating and cooling to reduce the impacts of extreme weather, fuel and fertilizer for modern agriculture to nourish an exploding population, electricity and transportation to revolutionize efficiency and productivity, and tools that make the miracle of modern healthcare possible (more on that below).

#2: Oil and Gas Are Essential to Quality, Modern Healthcare

A 2011 peer-reviewed study published in the American Journal of Public Health notes, “Petroleum is used widely in health care – primarily as a transport fuel and feedstock for pharmaceuticals, plastics and medical supplies – and few substitutes for it are available.”

Indeed, oil and natural gas are absolutely essential to modern healthcare, literally helping our medical professionals save lives. It is estimated the average emergency room has 90 products derived from petroleum and natural gas. It is also estimated that 80 to 90 percent of pharmaceuticals are made of petroleum.

A wide range of medical devices – ranging from pacemakers, heart valves, monitors, respirators and 3.5 billion face masks used by medical professionals – are petroleum-based or include critical components that are derived from petroleum.


#3: Strong US Oil and Gas Production Makes Us More Secure

Almost 70 percent of U.S. energy comes from oil and natural gas and a vast majority of Americans agree that producing oil and gas here in the United States is far more ideal than importing it from oftentimes hostile nations.

Fortunately, the United States is closer to long-sought energy independence than was ever dreamed possible. Department of Energy data show that since 2007, net crude oil and petroleum product imports have declined 95 percent at the same time domestic crude oil and liquids production have increased 148 percent. Despite the ongoing pandemic, the United States is on pace to be an net petroleum exporter on an annual basis in 2020 for the first time since 1949.

Just 13 years removed from being the world’s biggest energy importer, America is now on a trajectory to completely wipe out an energy trade deficit that peaked at $321 billion in 2011. Much to the chagrin of the hostile nations we once relied heavily on to meet our energy needs, what was once a glaring national weakness is now a strength, and our geopolitical position is as strong as its been in decades as a result.

Considering carbon dioxide emissions have declined 15 percent during this timespan, the energy security benefits of strong U.S. oil and natural gas production are an undeniable net positive for our country.


#4: Strong US Oil and Gas Production Bolsters Our Economy

Rising US oil and natural gas production has historically correlated directly with economic growth in the country – with the past decade-plus being a prime example.

As oil and natural gas production skyrocketed in the United States over the past decade-plus, the U.S. enjoyed an unprecedented 11 consecutive years of gross domestic product (GDP) growth prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The oil and natural gas boom has been credited for 10 percent of GDP growth since the Great Recession.

This economic prosperity can largely be explained by the fact that strong domestic oil and natural gas production dramatically reduces foreign imports, keeping billions of dollars here in our own economy rather than exporting them oversees. Our newfound energy bounty has also proven the equivalent of a massive tax cut, lowering energy costs dramatically. In fact, the Department of Energy reported in 2018 that average U.S. energy costs fell 34 percent from 2008 to 2016, dropping from record-high levels to a “record-low energy expenditure share” in less than a decade.

The U.S. oil and natural gas industry also continues to support more than 10 million jobs across the United States, with direct oil and natural gas industry jobs paying an average salary double the private sector average ($112,712 per year).

Energy is the one thing that all Americans use. And with that fundamental reality in mind, we have literally been able to drill our way to lower energy prices and economic prosperity over the past decade-plus, all while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


#5: The US Lead the World In CO2 Reductions Thanks Largely to Natural Gas

The United States has reduced carbon dioxide emissions more than any other country this century. And although it may surprise casual observers, experts agree that the primary reason for these emission declines is fuel-switching to clean-burning natural gas, which has been made possible by industry innovation. That’s right: the same technologies that have allowed us to emerge as the leading oil and natural gas producer in the world are also largely responsible for our status as the world leader in greenhouse gas emission reductions. The decoupling trend is unprecedented and shows that we don’t have to choose between the economy and environment.

The emissions reductions have been driven by fuel-switching in the electricity generation sector, with the Energy Information Administration estimating that natural gas is actually responsible for 58 percent more power sector CO2 emissions reductions than renewables and other non-carbon electricity generation sources.



Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker recently designated the oil and natural gas industry as “essential,” echoing the sentiment of governors throughout the country. As the above five examples illustrate, Pritzker’s designation was certainly justified. Oil and natural gas provide clear positive net benefits to society, improving quality and length of life by enhancing modern healthcare and fueling economic prosperity. Strong U.S. oil and natural gas production also greatly reducing our reliance on hostile foreign nations for our energy needs and has played a large roll in allowing us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

These are just a few examples of why the “Keep It In the Ground” movement’s stated goal of destroying this essential industry is a threat to our nation’s public health, economy and overall security.

Policies Aimed at Reducing U.S. Oil Production Will Only Increase Imports

Policies designed to deliberately decrease U.S. oil production have gained mainstream traction in recent years. The justification for such policies is the theory that curtailing domestic production will also drive down U.S. oil consumption and, subsequently, lower greenhouse gas emissions.

But a review of recent historical energy data shows that this widely held “Keep It In the Ground” belief has little basis in reality.

As the following IPRB chart shows, recent periods of decreased domestic petroleum production have coincided directly with sharp spikes in petroleum imports and CO2 emissions, while the recent spike in domestic petroleum production has coincided with plummeting imports and CO2 emissions.

This data show that “Keep It In the Ground” policies would only increase petroleum imports, strengthening our foreign competitors geopolitical standing while weakening our energy security and economy – all while possibly lead to a rise in emissions to boot.

Case Study: 1986-2008 – Declining Production, Soaring Imports & Emissions

The longest period of sustained oil production decline in U.S. history – 1986 to 2008 – provides a perfect example of the fact that declining production does not lead to a reduction in domestic oil demand – it only leads into increased imports from oftentimes hostile foreign sources in order to meet demand. Oil consumption, petroleum imports and carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) all soared to record levels during this 22-year time period despite a dramatic decline oil production in the U.S.

Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) show that from 1986 to 2008, U.S. oil production declined 44 percent and overall petroleum production – including crude oil and natural gas plant liquids production – was down 36 percent. Based on the logic used to justify policies aimed at deliberately decreasing U.S. production, one might assume that U.S. oil consumption and carbon dioxide emissions declined as during this time as well. But the opposite was actually true.

CO2 emissions increased 27 percent during that time-span and despite free-falling domestic oil production, U.S. oil consumption increased 24 percent from 1986 to 2008. To meet oil demand, foreign imports of oil and petroleum products ballooned, and our net petroleum imports grew by a whopping 159 percent. In fact, the United States was the world’s largest oil importer in 2008.

As the following graphics show, U.S. energy and emissions trends during this period of time were troubling, to say the least.

Anybody who is old enough to legally have a beer probably remembers that the mid-to-late 2000s were a time of considerable angst on the domestic energy front. U.S. oil production dropped to just 5 million barrels per day in 2008 and “peak oil” fears became rampant. U.S. net petroleum imports peaked at 12.5 million barrels per day in 2005 and our carbon dioxide emissions reached all-time highs in 2007.

U.S. oil demand has continued to grow consistently since 2008. But fortunately, our domestic production and natural gas production has skyrocketed, allowing the United States to reverse the above trends and put us closer to our long-coveted goal of energy independence than anyone could have imagined just a decade ago.

But now, with oil demand artificially depressed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is easy to forget that global oil consumption will likely rebound sharply once the pandemic is behind us. After all, global oil consumption reached an all-time high of nearly 100 million barrels per day in 2019, with the United States accounting for more than 20 percent of that consumption. The latter fact noted, the United States will no doubt return to the days of being the world’s leading oil importer if policies aimed at intentionally reducing domestic production are implemented.

That would be great news for major oil producing nations such as Saudi Arabia and Russia, who would no doubt regain the market share and geopolitical leverage they lost when the United States emerged as the world’s top oil producer this past decade.

And though it might seem counter-intuitive, a decrease in domestic oil and natural gas production would likely spike our CO2 emissions as well.

A dramatic increase in U.S. oil production over the past decade-plus has been coupled with a world-leading decline in CO2 emissions (nearly 800 million metric tons).

This can largely be explained by the fact that record U.S. production clean-burning natural gas – large quantities of which are co-produced with oil in places such as the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico – have allowed the United States to reduce emissions considerably.

Policies aimed at curtailing U.S. drilling will make natural gas more expensive and less plentiful and likely increase coal use, considering intermittent renewable energy is nowhere near reliable enough to power a developed society with a modern economy. Increased coal use would lead to a reversal in downward emission trends seen since about 2005.


 It wasn’t that long ago that “peak oil” fears and the assumption that the United States would be under the thumb of the OPEC cartel for decades to come were prevalent. But thanks to the ingenuity of U.S. producers, we are now the world’s undisputed leader in oil and natural gas production, a net oil and natural gas exporter and have led the world in CO2 emission reductions this century.

Fortunately, many Americans recognize these facts and see the folly in policies that would reverse these trends. Recent polls show strong support domestic oil and natural gas production throughout the United States, including Illinois:

  • A recent survey of 700 Illinois residents commissioned by the Grow America’s Infrastructure Now (GAIN) coalition finds 90 percent of respondents believe it’s important for the United States to be energy independent, while 85 percent agree that the oil and gas industry is important to the Illinois economy.
  • A recent Morning Consult poll of respondents in 12 energy-rich states found that 64 percent of respondents are likely to vote for a candidate who “supports policies that ensure consumers continue to have access to natural gas and oil produced in the U.S.”
  • A recent survey of 3,631 voters and likely voters across Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin conducted by the The Epoch Times found that 42 percent support “fracking [hydraulic fracturing] as a means of increasing oil and natural gas production in the U.S,” compared to 32 percent that oppose it.

As energy expert Daniel Yergin recently noted, “The world still runs on oil and oil will be a very major part of the energy mix for quite a long time… If you ban fracking [hydraulic fracturing] it’s an import-more-oil-policy.” Hopefully, policymakers will take note.



UPDATE: 5 Examples That Show ‘Keep It In the Ground’ Movement Isn’t Serious About Reducing Emissions


Aug. 20, 2020, 4:15 p.m.

As IPRB noted last week, “Keep It In the Ground” activists groups oppose the mineral mining needed to facilitate the massive renewable energy infrastructure build-out they claim is necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change.

A prime example of this contradictory stance can be found at the local level, as Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment (SAFE) has actively opposed proposed rare earth mineral mining at Hicks Dome in Hardin County and, more recently, potential rare earth mineral mining near Marion.

The Shawnee Trails chapter of the Sierra Club also expressed concerns about potential rare earth mining in a 2016 newsletter:

“Geological prospecting was proposed for Hick’s Dome in Hardin County in 2012, and the Forest Service received public comments during April and May 2015. Potential waste containment and health issues are of concern, whether during core drilling of radioactive rare earth elements (REEs), including thorium, or later possible mining. Moreover, IDNR just approved an oil drilling permit in Hicks Dome, which prompts similar concerns. REEs are used in electronics, hybrid vehicles, wind turbines, and cell phones. China supplies most REEs presently. Read the Project Documents and about REEs and environmental issues.”

Any serious transition to renewable energy is going to require some increase in mineral mining in the United States, including in Illinois. Opposition to such projects can effectively be viewed as indirect opposition to renewable energy or an endorsement of “not in my backyard” outsourcing of mining to other countries. IPRB will monitor these group’s stances on such issues in the months ahead.

Original Post: Aug. 13, 2020

“Keep It In the Ground” (KIITG) activists claim a rapid transition to 100 percent renewable energy is absolutely necessary in order to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change. But such a transition would require a lot of mining, lots of natural gas to back up intermittent wind and solar, and dramatic reform of federal permitting protocols to facilitate a rapid renewable infrastructure build-out.

Leaders of the KIITG movement are diametrically opposed to all three of these things.

KIITG movement leaders also show a relative lack of concern about skyrocketing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in China, while one of the movement’s most prominent communities continues to focus on suing energy companies more than actually reducing its own sky-high emissions. Add it all up, and it’s clear most KIITG activists care more about ending all U.S. energy production and making the United States completely dependent on foreign energy sources than reducing emissions and addressing climate change.

Here’s a closer look at the five examples of why the movement deserves far more scrutiny than it gets.

Example #1: KIITG Groups Oppose Reforms That Would Expedite Renewable Energy Projects

It has been estimated that 25 to 50 percent of overall U.S. land mass would be required to facilitate the wind and solar energy infrastructure build-out necessary to achieve the KIITG movement’s renewable energy goals by 2030.

That massive acreage considered, such a build-out is simply not going to happen without major reform of the restrictive National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA currently requires extensive environmental reviews to be conducted prior to major infrastructure projects beginning. These reviews currently take an average of more than 4 1/2 years to complete and can delay projects as many as 10 years, as such reviews are routinely challenged by environmental groups. These delays have been a major roadblock for both fossil fuel andrenewable infrastructure projects for years.

That is why President Trump recently signed an executive order to reform NEPA and expedite major infrastructure projects. The wind industry applauded Trump’s overhaul for the reasons noted above. But KIITG groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) vehemently oppose Trump’s NEPA reforms, claiming they will undermine environmental protections. Former Obama-era U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief and current NRDC President Gina McCarthy recently said in a statement:

“These reviews are required by law to protect people from industries that can harm our health and our communities. Getting rid of them will hit those who live closest to polluting facilities and highways the hardest – in many of the same communities already suffering the most from the national emergencies at hand.”

KIITG opposition to NEPA reform is a textbook example of the disconnect between the movement’s pie-in-the-sky idealism and the real-world compromises needed to make its 100 percent renewable energy rhetoric a reality. It is just one reason that the rhetoric has no basis in reality.

Example #2: KIITG Groups Oppose Mining Needed For Renewable Infrastructure

The 100 percent renewable energy transition KIITG groups insist must happen this decade is also going to require massive increase in mineral mining to produce renewable energy infrastructure and components such as batteries and solar panels. But prominent KIITG groups are diametrically opposed to mining – especially mining in the United States.

The Sierra Club’s mining policy states:

“Mining by its very nature is a dirty business and highly disruptive of the natural and human environment… Because of these negative impacts, additional or new mining must be kept to a minimum to meet essential human needs and alternatives to mining undisturbed ore bodies should be encouraged and pursued.”

Earthworks has a similar stance, characterizing mining as “inherently destructive” while stating that mining “devastates communities, clean water and the environment.”

It is because of well-funded campaigns by KIITG groups such as the Sierra Club and Earthworks that United States mineral mining is currently being “kept to a minimum” and far below the levels needed to domestically source the type of renewable energy revolution KIITG activists insist is needed.

Key minerals for the renewable energy transition include cobalt, lithium, natural graphite, nickel and rare earth metals, all of which are essential to manufacture batteries and components for electric cars.

According to a recent report from researchers at the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia, a 100 percent renewable energy transition would increase global lithium demand 280 percent and nickel demand 136 percent. The report finds that even assuming a high rate of recycling, demand for the two metals would exceed existing reserves by 86 and 43 percent, respectively, necessitating a massive increase in new mining.

Cambridge University Emeritus Professor of Technology Michael Kelly has estimated that replacement of the United Kingdom  internal combustion engine vehicles alone with electric vehicles would require more than half the world’s annual copper production, twice of its current cobalt production, 75 percent of its annual lithium carbonate production and nearly the world’s entire current production of neodymium.

The United States produces just 12.4 percent of the world’s rare earth metals, just 1.2 percent of the world’s lithium and virtually no cobalt and natural graphite.

In contrast, China controls 90 percent of global rare earth production, 90 percent of cobalt refining and 60 percent of global natural graphite production. Sixty-four percent of cobalt mining takes place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is largely controlled by Chinese companies.

Manhattan Institute senior fellow Mark P. Mills has also noted that:

“America imports some 80 percent of the electrical components (i.e., the key stuff other than the concrete, steel, and fiberglass) used in wind turbines. About 90 percent of our solar panels are imported. And even if solar cells were fabricated here, the U.S. produces only 10 percent of the world’s essential underlying silicon material. China produces half.”

Suffice it to say, the United States would be heavily dependent on China should the 100 percent renewable energy transition KIITG groups are pushing for commence any time soon. Such a situation would likely result in the renewable energy equivalent of the United States being under the OPEC oil cartel’s thumb, as it was for many decades prior to America’s recent oil and natural gas renaissance. As Ashley Feng, a research associate for China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, recently wrote in Scientific American:

“In the clean energy economy of the future, critical minerals will be just as essential – and geopolitical – as oil is today. To avoid making the same mistake twice, the U.S. should preemptively [declare] its own clean energy independence.”

But that would require powerful KIITG groups to suddenly shift policy in support of  domestic mineral mining expansion in places such as Round Top in Texas, which is believed to hold a 130-year supply of rare earth minerals. But don’t hold your breath on that KIITG policy shift announcement.

Example #3: KIITG Groups Oppose Natural Gas and Nuclear Energy

Increased use of natural gas – which emits roughly half the CO2 of other traditional fuels when burned – is the No. 1 reason the United States leads the world in CO2 reductions this century.

Nuclear energy is the only zero-emission power source that has been deployed at scale. An overwhelming majority of the CO2 emissions reductions achieved by the United States and Europe this century simply would not have happened without natural gas and nuclear energy.But KIITG groups oppose both.

A fact sheet that was released as part of the Green New Deal (GND) rollout calls for nuclear phase-out (although unproven “advanced” nuclear has since been tepidly endorsed by more moderate GND advocates). However, the Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch, Earthworks, NRDC and many other major KIITG groups outright oppose nuclear energy, as does teen climate activist Greta Thunberg. KIITG groups and activists also overwhelmingly favor banning hydraulic fracturing – the technology that has made natural gas more abundant and affordable than any time in history.

This opposition is baffling, as any serious effort to dramatically reduce emissions would almost certainly need to an all-of-the-above approach including natural gas, renewables, nuclear and some form of carbon capture and storage.

Example #4: KIITG Groups Praise China Despite Its Soaring Emissions

Not only would the United States likely be heavily reliant on China for the minerals needed to facilitate a 100 percent renewable energy build-out, the emission reductions that might result from such a build-out would be far offset by China’s exploding emissions.

As the above IPRB graphic illustrates, CO2 emissions increases in China have outpaced emissions reductions in the top-five leading countries this century by 472 percent.

Simply put, the world has no hope of collectively significantly reducing GHG emissions if China’s current emissions trajectory continues. And chances are, that trajectory is going to continue.

China is building hundreds of high-emitting coal power plants while watching its CO2 emissions skyrocket, the exact opposite of what is happening in the U.S., where natural gas plants have replaced more than 100 coal plants since 2011.


E&E News recently reported that:

“Today, [China] has almost as much new coal generation in planning or construction (206 gigawatts) as the United States has in operation (235 GW at the end of 2019).”

Christine Shearer, who runs the coal program at Global Energy Monitor, a research group that tracks fossil fuel infrastructure, told E&E News in an email:

“China’s coal plant build-out could single-handedly undermine the reductions in coal power use that the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] has said are necessary to keep warming below 2C, even if the rest of the world phased out coal power by 2030.”

Despite these facts, KIITG groups and the mainstream media routinely applaud China’s efforts to address climate change. As Bloomberg reported in 2017:

“The nation that spews the most pollution and is building dozens of coal-fired power plants is also winning accolades from the likes of Greenpeace and WWF for its efforts to fight global warming and steer an environmental path away from fossil fuels.”

Clearly, any serious campaign to reduce global CO2 emissions and mitigate climate change should be focused on China. Instead, KIITG groups either laud China or choose to ignore its skyrocketing emissions while pushing to ban domestic production of fossil fuels that are responsible for 80 percent of our energy mix.

Example #5: KIITG Groups Focus on Suing Energy Companies Rather Than Reducing Emissions

KIITG groups have pushed numerous climate liability lawsuits throughout the United States in recent years, a tactic aimed at forcing energy companies to pay for the impacts of climate change and adaptation measures, with a long-term goal of putting targeted companies out of business.

One of the most infamous climate lawsuits has been filed by the city of Boulder, Colo., which is known for touting its green credentials and being the epicenter of Colorado’s KIITG movement. But it turns out Boulder’s “green” credentials aren’t exactly much to brag about.

The Associated Press (AP) recently reported that a Boulder County zip code has the highest per-capita carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the country. That’s right – the average resident of this “green” KIITG hot-spot uses far morefossil fuels than the typical American. As the AP reported:

“The zip code that produced the most greenhouse gas per person was in the mountains of western Boulder County, where the 23,811 pounds per person is 18 times higher than in the San Francisco zip code.”

Boulder County’s gluttonous fossil fuel consumption even as the city of Boulder sues energy companies is more than just hypocritical. It shows that even if the KIITG the strategy of suing U.S. energy companies out of existence were to prove successful, it is highly unlikely that affluent, energy-hungry communities such as Boulder where the KIITG movement tends to be most prominent will simply continue using energy sourced from foreign sources.


With the KIITG agenda going mainstream in this year’s presidential election, that agenda certainly warrants increased scrutiny. And as the five examples above illustrate, it is clear that the KIITG agenda has much more to do with putting U.S. traditional energy companies out of business and making the United States completely reliable on foreign energy sources than it does with reducing CO2 emissions and mitigating climate change.

Thanks largely to the United States’ oil and natural gas renaissance, America’s energy security is as strong as it’s ever been and once unimaginable energy independence is within reach. The KIITG agenda simply seeks to destroy that energy security by making the United States dependent on foreign sources for oil and natural gas andminerals needed for a massive renewable energy build-out.