Oil Industry Claims We Need Unsafe Drilling To Create Jobs

Our guest blogger is Kiley Kroh, Associate Director for Ocean Communications at American Progress.

The latest oil industry-funded report touting unregulated offshore drilling reveals a severe case of amnesia. The report, commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the National Ocean Industries Association, documents a decline in offshore drilling-related jobs and revenue, attributing it to multiple factors, including general economic downturn and the slower pace of permitting new projects since the BP oil spill.

The report’s topline claim is that almost 190,000 jobs could be created by 2013 if offshore drilling returns to pre-spill levels. Yet this completely ignores the reality that the moratorium was put in place for a reason: namely, the biggest accidental oil spill in the history of the world. Only the lobbying might of API and other industry groups has successfully prevented Congress from enacting even a single piece of legislation strengthening safety or oversight of offshore drilling. Instead, congressional Republicans continue to push bill after bill catering directly to the oil and gas industry by recklessly expanding offshore drilling and concurrently weakening oversight.

Jack Gerard, president and chief executive officer of API insists, “We’ve done the necessary work raising the bar on safety.”


This assurance seems laughable, coming from the same man who engineered an entire astroturf movement built around killing offshore drilling safety measures. The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling report, released earlier this year, found that API’s role as the industry’s principal lobbyist and public policy advocate resulted in “compromised” safety standards that were a direct contributor to the BP disaster:

API’s proffered safety and technical standards were a major casualty of this conflicted role … Because the Interior Department has in turn relied on API in developing its own regulatory safety standards, API’s shortfalls have undermined the entire federal regulatory system.

Less than one year after the Gulf coast was left soaking in 200 million gallons of oil, the industry is advocating deregulation and irresponsible acceleration of pending projects.

Simply put, there are better ways to generate employment in our domestic energy economy. An analysis from the Center for American Progress (CAP) found that clean energy investments create about 16.7 jobs for every $1 million in spending. Spending on fossil fuels, by contrast, generates just 5.3 jobs per $1 million in spending.

What’s more, clean energy jobs work to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, improve air quality, and slow the damaging effects of climate change. And these jobs aren’t just hypothetical — data released yesterday by the Brookings Institution found that the clean economy currently employs 2.7 million workers — more than the biosciences and fossil fuel sectors.


Just as we can’t drill our way out of dependence on foreign oil, we can’t drill our way out of a recession either. While the final cost of the damage wrought by the BP oil spill won’t be known for years, it is overwhelmingly clear the Gulf Coast economy cannot weather another spill. API’s Gerard is exactly right that “we cannot continue to delay developing energy and hiring people in the Gulf.” As CAP and Oxfam suggested in a report earlier this year, let’s do it in a way that creates more jobs and doesn’t run the risk of a monumental environmental and economic disaster.