NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Oil and Gas Workers May be Paid More to be Less Happy than Their Green-Jobs Counterparts

March 11, 2015

Oil and Gas Workers May be Paid More to be Less Happy than Their Green-Jobs Counterparts

On February 24, 2015, President Obama vetoed the Keystone Pipeline, citing that such a project is "not in the national interest" ― and instead has been a vocal proponent of creating green jobs in alternative energies. However, it is vital to analyze the quality and effect of these jobs. When comparing the jobs created by the oil and gas industry to the emerging green energy industry, what considerations should be made?

The first and most simple is salaries; it does not take a scientist to see that members of the oil and gas industry are typically paid much more than their green-collar counterparts. Ironically, apart from being paid less than other jobs in oil and gas, every single blue-collar job in the green energy sector requires an undergraduate degree (except for "Wind Turbine Service Technician," which only requires work experience or specialized certifications).

From a purely financial point of view, it is a significant investment with a lower return. Oil and gas lend greater support to unskilled, blue-collar workers. What contributes to higher pay in oil and gas jobs? Is the oil and gas industry simply more lucrative? Conventional wisdom may lend itself to this idea, but there is also another component in the equation.

Industry reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) seem to point to a high-risk premium that is implicitly included in the pay for oil and gas workers. The Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses by BLS shows workers in the oil, gas and mining industry have a probability of nonfatal injuries that can be as high as 36 percent, particularly in smaller companies. This statistic translates into a higher than average probability of injury, disability, chronic illness and death for workers within the sector. Employees in the oil and gas industry also report lower levels of job satisfaction.

Source: Santiago Bello, "Oil and Gas v. Green Jobs," National Center for Policy Analysis, March 9, 2015. 


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