As U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette toured the Shell Ethane Cracker Plant in Beaver County, Pennsylvania Monday, a new report from a watchdog group indicates clean energy technology can produce more jobs in the state than fracking and other fossil fuel-related industries.
"Political leaders in the state must create the policies that will grow these industries, instead of doubling down on fracking's false promises about jobs," Alison Grass, research director for Food & Water Watch said in a statement accompanying the organization's report Monday. "For the sake of giving workers a stable future, protecting public health, and making real strides in the fight against climate chaos, the choice is clear: Clean energy jobs can deliver far more good jobs for Pennsylvania."
The report comes as both President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden attempt to woo voters in the Keystone State, as a victory there could mean winning the White House for either candidate.
PA granted @Shell $1.65B in tax incentives for a $6B facility that will create 600 petrochemical jobs, but similar investment in wind & solar manufacturing could have created 16,500 JOBS.— Food & Water Watch (@foodandwater) September 21, 2020
We need to invest in clean energy, not more polluting fossil fuels. https://t.co/ATBmSlmmVi
Food & Water Watch's report, "Cracked: The Case for Green Jobs Over Petrochemicals In Pennsylvania," found that while the Shell Ethane Cracker Plant—the same one Brouillette visited Monday—negotiated an "unprecedented $1.65 billion tax giveaway," it will only employ 600 workers, while a similar monetary investment in wind or solar manufacturing would employ 16,500 people.
In a press release previewing Brouillette's visit, the Department of Engery said the plant "has provided approximately 7,000 jobs to the greater Pittsburgh area and jumpstarted the rapidly growing need for a robust petrochemical industry in Appalachia."
Grass disagreed with that claim. "Instead of continuing to hand out money to frackers and petrochemical corporations, Pennsylvania could create a real, worker-centered recovery by investing in clean energy manufacturing. This research shows that clean energy outperforms fossil fuels when it comes to putting Pennsylvanians to work," she said.
The report also indicates that despite repeated claims from Republican lawmakers including President Trump of incredible job gains due to fossil fuel industry investments in the United States, "the fracking boom only boosted employment by about 18,300 in Pennsylvania. With another bust already in progress, fracking cannot provide a sustainable pathway to prosperity or an adequate solution to the deindustrialization that has imperiled the region for decades."
In addition, the report's authors wrote in a summary of their research, "tax cuts for the largest corporations in the world strengthen corporate power, increase inequality, and dampen job growth by encouraging speculation instead of employment."
As Trump and Biden vie for votes ahead of the November election, calls for aggressive action from climate advocates appear to fall on deaf ears, or, perhaps, ears attuned to corporate donors—the energy and natural resources sector has donated $4.5 million and $1.6 million to each campaign, respectively—despite polling showing voters are concerned with fracking and the climate crisis in general and support a Green New Deal, which neither candidate defends.
As recently as last Thursday, during a CNN town hall, Biden reaffirmed his previous statements that he will not ban fracking. Trump, sending Brouillette to celebrate the Shell plant Monday, deploying Vice President Mike Pence to the state earlier this month as well as visiting to rally fossil fuel industry workers in the Keystone State himself, continues to deny the effects of human activity—including fossil fuel extraction and production—on the climate crisis.
The report's authors note the president's emphasis on the industry in helping him win a second term in November, writing, "The Trump re-election campaign is heavily emphasizing fossil fuel and petrochemical jobs in Pennsylvania. Trump held a campaign-style rally at the facility a few months ago, and more recently falsely claimed credit for its construction. Brouillette's two-day visit is a strong indicator that the White House will continue to emphasize the importance of fossil fuel jobs."
Biden's campaign, despite the former vice president's recent visits to the state, has some critics concerned he is not articulating his vision clearly nor investing enough in key battleground states.
Referring to the relative lack of Biden campaign resources on the ground in Pennsylvania, one local Democratic county chairperson told the New York Times last week, "I do think the polls have tightened because of the lack of presence."
Both Trump and Biden have planned visits to Pennsylvania this week.