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Warren Martin, Executive Director Kansas Strong
2nd Quarter Newsletter

Why O&NG Workers Aren’t Too Keen on Transitioning to Renewable Energy Jobs

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 mis-guided 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 mostconsumed 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 Kansas’ proud oil and gas workforce.


A recent Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association (TIPRO) report serves as a reminder that Kansas is home to 3 refineries and an oil production industry that dates back more than a century. TIPRO also finds there were not only 11,414 direct oil and gas jobs (and nearly tenfold that number counting secondary jobs directly dependent on the industry) in Kansas last year – 12th most in the country – but that those jobs paid an average salary of more than $76,098.


No wonder Kansas 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, 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…”


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.

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.


Adapted from an article by Seth Whitehead with permission.

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