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Estimates suggest there aren’t even 100,000 fossil fuel jobs in West Virginia today, meaning the notion that so many jobs would be lost in the state is mathematically impossible.
This assertion also assumes West Virginia doesn’t gain any renewable energy jobs as a result of the transition away from fossil fuels.
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In 2024, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is up for reelection. If he runs again, he faces an uphill challenge as a Democrat running in what has become a solidly Republican state. Already, term-limited Gov. Jim Justice is running in the Republican primary, as is U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney.
One Nation, a conservative group that has been involved in politics for several election cycles but does not disclose its donors, targeted Manchin in a petition on its website, calling attention to his vote in favor of the Inflation Reduction Act.
As PolitiFact has noted, the Inflation Reduction Act includes a green energy package costing $369 billion over 10 years. It includes tax credits to boost investment in solar, wind, hydropower and other renewable energy. Such provisions have attracted opposition from oil and natural gas producers, including some in West Virginia, who say it puts their industries at a disadvantage.
"West Virginia’s way of life depends on coal jobs. But the purpose of the climate provisions in President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, supported by Senator Joe Manchin "was to drive coal plants ... out of business." Senator Manchin’s support for the IRA could cost West Virginia 100,000 fossil fuel jobs! And what did Senator Manchin get? A pen. Tell Senator Manchin to stop writing off West Virginia JOBS and supporting Biden’s Liberal Climate policy. Sign the Petition below!"
Is the petition correct that the Inflation Reduction Act "could cost West Virginia 100,000 fossil fuel jobs"?
We found that it’s possible some jobs could be lost in the transition to non-fossil fuel energy, but the 100,000 figure for West Virginia job losses is exaggerated.
One Nation did not respond to inquiries for this article.
In 2019, PolitiFact West Virginia looked at how many oil and gas jobs West Virginia had.
We found that the answer was complicated, but no estimate for oil and gas jobs came close to 100,000.
In 2021, the American Petroleum Institute, an oil and gas industry association, published the most recent version of a report analyzing the oil and gas industry’s U.S. economic impact.
It found that West Virginia had 32,300 workers directly employed in the oil and gas industry, and that the sector supported a combined 82,000 jobs directly and indirectly. The indirect jobs included jobs that provided goods or services to the industry, as well as "induced" jobs, which were supported by expenditures by people employed within oil and natural gas industries.
As we reported in 2019, it’s important to note that this data comes from the industry itself, rather than an independent arbiter.
Official government data shows a far smaller number of jobs. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics found 1,904 jobs in oil and gas extraction in West Virginia at the end of first quarter 2023. That’s down from a peak of more than 2,900 in several quarters of 2014 and 2015.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics found an additional 2,251 workers engaged in "support activities for oil and gas operations," down from nearly 4,600 in 2014.
Together, that works out to 4,155 workers in West Virginia for these two categories. Adding in roughly 22,000 jobs in coal mining, that totals a bit over 26,000 jobs.
Experts in employment data had a couple of explanations for the differences between the two analyses.
The petroleum institute told PolitiFact West Virginia in 2019 that the official federal data excludes contractors and sole proprietorships and partnerships, which play a significant role in the oil and gas extraction sector. Experts also said that professional services -- such as lawyers reviewing lease agreements for drilling -- wouldn’t necessarily be captured in the bureau’s data.
Also, the institute’s study includes several industry sectors that are outside of the pure oil and gas extraction activities captured in the bureau’s data. The report lists such categories as oil and gas pipeline construction, petroleum refining, types of asphalt manufacturing and gas stations.
The inclusion of gas stations may go the furthest to explain the divergence between the data.
The institute’s report didn’t specify how many of the oil and gas jobs in West Virginia come from gas stations, but in its nationwide data, gas stations accounted for about 39% of all the jobs it tallied in the oil and gas sector. So including gas station jobs amplifies the institute’s job numbers.
Finally, we looked at the U.S. Energy and Employment Report, a periodic study published most recently this year by the Energy Department.
It found 8,972 West Virginia jobs in the oil and gas sector and 16,955 in the coal sector, for a total of 25,927 fossil fuel jobs.
In all, the three employment analyses suggest that the number of direct fossil fuel jobs in West Virginia is somewhere between 25,000 and 55,000.
Meanwhile, the petition assumes that every single fossil fuel job in the state would be lost, and that no jobs would be gained in the renewable energy sector after the Inflation Reduction Act’s passage.
We couldn’t find specific projections for West Virginia, but nationally, the Energy Futures Initiative, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank headed by Ernest Moniz, the Energy Secretary under former President Barack Obama, projects a net gain of 1.46 million jobs by 2030 due to the law’s policy changes.
One Nation said Manchin’s "support for the (Inflation Reduction Act) could cost West Virginia 100,000 fossil fuel jobs."
No one knows how many jobs could be lost in West Virginia during the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, but the estimates suggest there aren’t even 100,000 fossil fuel jobs in West Virginia today, making the claim mathematically impossible. This assertion also assumes West Virginia doesn’t gain any renewable energy jobs.
We rate the statement Mostly False.
American Petroleum Institute, "Impacts of the oil and natural gas industry on the US Economy in 2019," July 2021
Bureau of Labor Statistics, "All Employees in Private NAICS 211 Oil and gas extraction for All establishment sizes in West Virginia," accessed Oct. 21, 2023
Bureau of Labor Statistics, "All Employees in Private NAICS 213112 Support activities for oil and gas operations for All establishment sizes in West Virginia," accessed Oct. 21, 2023
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, "All employees: mining and logging in West Virginia," accessed Oct. 21, 2023
Energy Department, U.S. energy and employment report, 2023, West Virginia, accessed Sept. 26, 2023
Energy Futures Initiative, "Inflation Reduction Act analysis: key findings on workforce demand," January 2023
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., press release, Aug, 16, 2023
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., letter, August 4, 2022
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Inflation Reduction Act fact sheet, accessed Sept. 28, 2023
PolitiFact, "How many oil and gas jobs are there in West Virginia? It's surprisingly hard to say," April 5, 2019
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