March 18, 2016 at 5:00 am ET
As the primary season continues to heat up, so does the rhetoric on the most pressing issues facing our country, including immigration, national security, and our economy. One issue in particular has gone from a secondary to a headline issue in recent years: climate change, raising new issues about energy development in our country.
While soundbites about climate change work on the campaign trail, we must have a real conversation about the state of the American energy industry and future opportunities for growth.
President Obama has ushered in a new era of environmental stewardship, making our country’s fight against climate change a top-tier domestic and international issue. From the Clean Power Plan to Paris’ Climate Deal, great strides have been made in an effort to combat global warming thanks to the leadership of this Administration.
Very few would disagree that climate change, clean energy, and renewable energy certainly deserve increased investments and opportunities for success. But our elected officials need to recognize the growth opportunities that the existing energy industry can offer all Americans, particularly as the industry continues to evolve with new technologies and in response to changing economic conditions. Resorting to broad generalizations about the energy industry makes little economic sense, and our politicians should be talking more about the job opportunities provided by the energy sector; both historically and looking towards the future, not simply reciting surface-level soundbites.
The energy industry in this country has witnessed a rebirth in recent years. Research from the U.S. Energy Information Administration found that in recent years, jobs in the energy industry increased by more than 40 percent, a staggering account of economic success in a largely stagnant economy. As the United States continues to pursue new opportunities in clean and renewable energies, it is critical that we recognize the strength of the traditional energy sector in creating job opportunities for all Americans, and in particular, for minorities.
The energy industry is not just important to our overall communities, but also specifically for minority communities across the country. In 2014, a report found that if energy development continued, African-American and Hispanic workers would be predicted to hold more than 285,000 new jobs in the industry by 2030.
Despite a recent decrease to the lowest ratein 7 years, the unemployment rate for black Americans is still close to twice the white unemployment rate. There is clear room for improvement, and the energy industry offers jobs across a vast spectrum of skilled, semi-skilled, and managerial positions – providing opportunities to individuals who work on oil rigs, welders, accountants, and geologists across the board.
Unfortunately, a small number of groups are trying to undermine the energy industry all together, a tactic that would undermine the U.S. economy, while not making strides to combat global warming. In fact, ExxonMobil holds hundreds of new patents on cutting edge technologies that will help solve the climate problems. By isolating the energy industry, we will come no closer to solving this serious problem and would impair our economy in the interim.
As Americans, we should be running towards economic opportunity at every chance, particularly if we wish to remain competitive on the world stage. Blindly turning away from an industry that has been central to recent American economic growth would be a dangerous and misguided move.