The fossil fuel industry in Texas employs about 450,000 people, a statistic that has long driven politicians in the state to oppose green energy adoption measures. However, as the impacts of climate change begin to affect more and more communities, even fossil fuel workers in the Lone Star State are starting to change their opinions on renewables.
Last week, at the annual Texas AFL-CIO convention, dozens of unions, including oil and gas unions, chose to support a series of emissions-reducing policies for the state. Why? To ensure they are not left behind in the transition to green energy. The policies, designed by the Texas Climate Jobs Project, help ensure that oil and gas workers are properly retrained to seek new jobs in the green energy sector.
The recommendations include building wind and solar farms and geothermal power plants, upgrading the state’s transmission grid, reducing energy consumption in buildings, installing solar panels on schools, extending broadband internet access, expanding high-speed rail, and electrifying school buses and government-owned vehicles.
Lara Skinner, the director of the climate and labor program at Cornell’s Worker Institute, tells Grist that all too often, climate recommendations emphasize environmental benefits without acknowledging the economic benefits they also hold. For example, localizing electric vehicle production and infrastructure would offer immense job opportunities in creating, supporting, and transitioning to EVs. The report from the Texas Climate Jobs Project finds that if all their recommendations were implemented, the state would see the creation of an estimated 1.1 million jobs directly over the next 25 years with many more created indirectly.
The support of labor unions is a big step for achieving a green energy transition. As significant influences on political decision making, unions have the power to push forward or hold back climate action, and when it comes to creating a livable planet with good-paying jobs, many oil and gas unions are realizing the choice is clear.