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Fracking and Petrochemicals Create Fewer Pennsylvania Jobs Than Clean Energy

Study dismantles myths about fracking and petrochemical jobs.

Evidence shows that Shell cracker plant created far fewer jobs than predicted, at enormous cost to the state.

WASHINGTON - While Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette tours a Shell petrochemical plant under construction in Pennsylvania today, a new analysis shows that the high-profile project will employ far less workers than promised, and that a similar investment in wind and solar manufacturing would be far more beneficial.

The new Food & Water Watch research, “Cracked: The Case For Green Jobs Over Petrochemicals In Pennsylvania,” focuses on the massive Shell petrochemical ‘cracker’ plant outside Pittsburgh.

While early backers of the $6 billion project predicted it would create between 10,000 and 20,000 jobs, the facility will only employ 600 workers. Factoring in the massive $1.6 billion tax break granted to the company -- the largest in Pennsylvania history-- means the state is essentially paying $2.75 million to create each job at the plant.

The Food & Water Watch research estimates that a similar level of investment in wind and solar manufacturing would create over 16,000 jobs.

Unfortunately, state political leaders are still pushing tax breaks for fossil fuels and petrochemicals in the hopes that it will drive additional job growth. The Shell plant is emblematic of this misguided approach: Minimal job creation, increased pollution, and broken promises on using local labor and in-state materials like steel.

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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. Brouilette’s two-day visit is a strong indicator that the White House will continue to emphasize the importance of fossil fuel jobs.

“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,” said Food & Water Watch Research Director Alison Grass. “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. 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.”

While political pundits regularly tout the jobs bonanza created by the gas industry in Pennsylvania, Food & Water Watch finds that the state’s fracking boom produced an increase of just 18,000 jobs in the industry -- and that figure predates the recent slump in the fossil fuel industry. Drillers have been shedding thousands of jobs in the state, especially after the COVID pandemic.

Meanwhile, job growth in the renewable industries in Pennsylvania has been encouraging: New research commissioned by the Department of Environmental Protection shows that employment in the wind and solar sectors grew by almost 9 percent between 2017 and 2019, while gas and coal jobs have declined.

Given the unmistakable drop in fossil fuel employment, the Food & Water Watch report recommends that Pennsylvania can create a just transition with a comprehensive, New Deal-scale green public works program that will deliver economic benefits for working people through a large-scale buildout of publicly owned renewable electricity.

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Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

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