Drills Gone Wild: What To Expect From Rick Perry’s Energy Plan Daniel J. Weiss

Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) plans to unveil his energy plan at a speech in Pittsburgh tomorrow.  Based on his description in Manchester Union Leader and other comments, the Perry proposal bill is a Big Oil wish list masquerading as an energy plan.  It would allow so much more oil drilling on federal lands and in waters that it is “drill, baby, drill” gone wild.

By gutting health safeguards from air pollution, it is a recipe for more premature deaths and hospitalizations, with few additional jobs, and no investment in the fast growing clean tech sector. The Perry Petroleum Plan looks backwards by reviving the Bush – Cheney plan developed in secret with big oil companies rather than providing a path to cleaner, more efficient energy production and consumption — the road our economic competitors are racing on.

Perry implored during Tuesday’s presidential debate that we must “get America independent on the domestic energy side.”  He must not know the Obama Administration has already made significant progress to reduce dependence on foreign oil.  The Energy Information Administration reports that domestic oil production is up ten percent while imports are six percent lower from 2008 to 2011.  Meanwhile, domestic oil use is down two percent, with additional oil savings due to new, improved fuel efficiency standards for vehicles.  Over the next decade, the growth in U.S. domestic oil production will outpace the progression in oil demand.

Despite the increase in drilling already underway, Perry would “immediately authorize[e] the release of some federal lands and waters for energy development.”   This proposal is both unnecessary and reckless, since this new production could occur without the new safeguards the administration established for offshore oil drilling necessitated by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster last year.  Part of Perry’s plan includes “a review of all Obama-era regulations…and work to eliminate onerous rules that kill jobs with little benefit to the environment,” which would likely include these long overdue improvements.

Perry relies on oil industry statistics to make the case that more drilling means millions of more jobs.  The Washington Post recently reviewed the American Petroleum Institute’s job claims, and found them wanting.

But many economists say that the API has exaggerated the number of jobs linked to the oil and gas industry by including direct and indirect jobs (such as steel suppliers), and a seldom-used category known as “induced” jobs that API says covers everything from valets to day-care providers, from librarians to rocket scientists.

Moreover, the single biggest category of people working directly for the petroleum industry is cashiers at gasoline stations and stations with convenience stores — 533,830 of them, according to the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet hardly any of those cashiers pump gas, check engines or inflate tires; mostly they ring up sales of snacks, not gasoline. According to the Labor Department, their median hourly wage is a meager $8.68.

According to the BLS, the number of people in the United States drilling wells, extracting oil and gas, refining petroleum and manning gasoline stations is about 1.1 million.

An analysis by the Democratic members of the House Natural Resources Committee found that Big Oil companies shed jobs over the last five years at a time of increased oil production.

Despite generating $546 billion in profits between 2005 and 2010, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, and BP combined to reduce their U.S. workforce by 11,200 employees over that time.

Just in 2010 alone, the big 5 oil companies reduced their global workforce by a combined 4,400 employees, while making a combined $73 billion in profits.

Nonetheless, Perry repeats the unsubstantiated, implausible claim that more drilling will double total employment in the oil and gas sector

Another Perry target is the Environmental Protection Agency and its reductions in air pollution responsible for smog, acid rain, and carcinogenic emissions from power plants and other sources.  Five new clean air health rules would annually prevent 68,000 premature deaths and 52,000 hospitalizations.

There is little evidence that such health standards cause job loss.  According to former Reagan, Bush, Kemp and Paul official Bruce Bartlett, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, regulations are having a lower impact on employment under the Obama Administration than they did in 2008 at the end of the Bush Administration.

In fact, clean air safeguards create jobs because companies buy and install more advanced pollution control equipment. The University of Massachusetts completed a study earlier this year that projects an increase of 1.5 million jobs due to compliance with the Cross State Air Pollution and Utility Air Toxics rules.

Perry’s attack on clean air safeguards could alienate independent and even many Republican voters.   A bipartisan poll by Hart Research (D) and GS Strategy Group (R) released on October 12 by Ceres found that three quarters of independents favor these two air pollution standards even after hearing both sides of the debate.  And nearly half of all Republicans do too.   The Republican pollster Greg Strimple of GS strategy noted that

“Although some in Congress oppose these rules, the level of support from Republican voters is surprisingly strong.  The research clearly demonstrates Republican voters are willing to support new rules to reduce harmful emissions in order to improve public health.  Republicans like clean air, too.”

In a press conference about the poll, Strimple noted the most effective issues for Republican candidates are those that divide Democrats and Independents, and unite Republican voters.  He warned that attacks on clean air rules like Perry’s assault do the opposite: they unite Democrats and independents and divide Republicans.

Texas generates more electricity from wind power than any other state.  Nonetheless, Gov. Perry’s description of his plan excludes any federal investment in such new and emerging technologies, including power from the wind, sun, tides, or earth.

The Perry Pro-Petroleum Plan would focus almost exclusively on producing more domestic oil and gas, including some from places that Americans deem worth protecting for future generations.  But his plan ignores investments in our growing clean tech sector that not only create more jobs, but also help grow the economy with more innovation, manufacturing, and other activities.  Such investments will increase exports and competitiveness in the $2 trillion annual market for clean tech.  Perry’s plan ignores this future and instead would go back to a past where big oil companies ruled while Americans suffered from their pollution.

— Daniel J. Weiss, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress Action Fund

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