Companies have spent billions of dollars to control the conversation around fossil fuels both in the media and through the government. Let’s break down these common misconceptions. Learn more about each point by clicking the plus sign.
We need oil and gas development for energy independence
We have the technology to replace oil and gas with renewable energy for electricity generation, and battery storage can ensure grid reliability – plus these alternatives are cheaper than fossil fuels. The technology to meet demands for other sectors, such as transportation and industrial, is rapidly improving too. The new oil and gas infrastructure in the Ohio River Valley/Gulf Coast is not for domestic energy use. Because the drilling industry has extracted a huge surplus of oil and gas, it is investing heavily in exporting fuels abroad or converting them to plastic.
Even worse, much of this surplus gas is flared (intentionally burned off) or vented (released straight into the air without burning). In 2019, the drilling industry flared and vented 293.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas in the Permian Basin (Texas and New Mexico).
We need oil and gas to heat our homes
We need oil, gas, and petrochemical development for economic development
These industries can contribute tax revenue and provide jobs in areas that need it. However, when you factor in the externalized costs that this development causes – damage to roads, drinking water, property values, and public health, as well as its contribution to climate change – the costs outweigh the benefits. The oil and gas industry is only able to stay afloat thanks to large tax subsidies: in fact, the United States spent $5.2 trillion on fossil fuel subsidies in 2017! In the first quarter of 2019, a cross-section of 29 fracking-focused companies “reported more than $2.5 million in negative free cash flows.” As more and more oil and gas companies go bankrupt, it’s clear this industry is on the verge of a bust. As such, local economies put themselves in a very vulnerable position by betting on oil and gas and associated industries like petrochemicals.
2. The benefits of the industry are unevenly distributed and temporary. For example, in Monroe County, Ohio, oil and gas account for 85% of the county’s GDP, which has seen an increase in GDP from fracking. Yet the poverty rate is 19.7%(13th highest county in Ohio), and unemployment, at 7.8%, is the highest in Ohio. Investing in sustainable industries, such as renewable energy and locally-controlled businesses, provides more economic benefits and jobs.
We all use plastic, drive cars, and deserve the right to heat our homes; therefore, it’s hypocritical to resist the oil, gas, and petrochemical industry.
The fossil fuel and plastic industries have waged decades-long campaigns to shift the burden of environmental problems onto consumers. Alternatives to fossil fuels and plastic exist, but the oil and gas industry has for years pushed out these alternatives through lobbying, drafting industry-friendly legislation, donating to politicians’ campaigns, and promoting false solutions. Consumers can only make choices based on what is on the market and what they can afford.
Plastic is necessary and can be properly managed by recycling and waste management efforts.
Only 9% of plastic produced has ever been recycled. Unfortunately, recycling has been a largely unsuccessful undertaking. The vast majority of packaging and other plastic products are extremely difficult or impossible to recycle. Countries like the US ship these low-worth plastics to Asia, but countries there are not prepared to deal with this flood of waste, thereby creating serious occupational and health risks. What does work is reducing plastic use by relying on reusable and non-plastic alternatives? Plastic producers must take responsibility for the plastic- pollution crisis.
Plus, there’s just too much plastic. If we continue on this path, by 2050, there will be 12 billion metric tons of plastic dumped in landfills (that’s equal to 35,000 Empire State Buildings!) and more plastic in the ocean than fish. Since plastic is designed to last forever, this waste is there for far more than the foreseeable future.
There are no jobs in renewable energy
Automation of the fossil fuel industry – Clean energy is more labor-intensive and less automated
Job training and opportunities needed in communities w/ extractive industries.