skip to main content

→ Top Stories:
Clean Power plan
Safe Chemicals

Amy Mall’s Blog

New report on the long term negative impacts of oil and gas development for communities

Amy Mall

Posted December 12, 2013

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Share | | |

Headwaters Economics just released a study of 207 counties in the six major oil- and gas-producing states in the interior West: Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. They looked at these counties over 30 years of boom and bust energy development. Some of their key findings:

  • For counties that participated in the early 1980s oil and gas boom, per capita income declines with longer specialization in oil and gas.
  • Growth in the oil and gas sector is associated with higher crime rates.
  • The longer a county's economy has specialized in oil and gas, the higher the county’s crime rate.
  • Growth in the oil and gas sector is associated with declining educational attainment.

There's a much better alternative. Research has found that net job creation is substantially higher with clean energy investments than fossil fuels at different educational levels--and there are more types of all jobs in cleaner energy. 

Solar plants and wind farms are revitalizing rural communities and manufacturing towns, and adding critical sources of clean, domestic power to our energy supply. While the oil and gas industry laid off 10,000 workers during the recession, renewable energy companies added a half million jobs between 2003 and 2010. In fact, the renewable energy industry has grown at twice the rate of the overall economy, and green jobs employ 2.7 million Americans – that's more than the entire fossil fuels industry combined. 

On top of the economic benefits, clean energy from energy efficiency and renewable sources can help keep our air and water clean, keep families and communities healthy, and help fight poverty. That's the future Americans want for our country.

Share | | |


Gerald QuindryDec 13 2013 01:57 PM

"...and green jobs employ 2.7 million Americans -- that's more than the entire fossil fuels industry combined."

I don't believe your information is correct.

From the New York Times, March 12, 2012,

"But even with a breakneck pace of growth, the clean-energy industry would not be creating as many jobs as the fossil fuel industry: It simply is not big enough at the moment to draw in hundreds of thousands of new workers per year. The Pew study, for instance, estimated that 770,000 people worked in green energy. That compares with more than nine million jobs for oil and gas, and many more for coal and other industries."

Amy MallDec 13 2013 02:48 PM

Dear Mr. Quindry: Thanks for the comment. It's not clear to me where the 9 million number in the article comes from, or the source of the conclusion that clean energy cannot create as many jobs. I found an industry document that claims 9 million jobs but it also seems to include jobs like airline pilots and pharmacists:
There have been various criticisms of industry-generated economic reports, as mentioned in this previous blog post:

Comments are closed for this post.


Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit

Feeds: Amy Mall’s blog

Feeds: Stay Plugged In