California looks to phase out fossil fuels and replace gasoline-powered vehicles with electric cars.
According to E&E News, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office and legislators are talking to unions representing industry workers, and a new state Assembly document outlines potential solutions. But it’s a complex quandary, raising questions about whether to guarantee workers their current salaries and benefits as their jobs disappear.
“One of the major hurdles in transitioning existing fossil fuels activities to clean energy ones has been the potentially negative economic consequences to workers and communities,” according to a document from the Assembly Office of Policy and Research obtained by E&E News. “As the state implements its ambitious climate goals, there is an opportunity to assist workers impacted by the transition to a green economy.”
Nearly 112,000 people work in 14 fossil fuel and ancillary industries in California as of 2018, according to a report last year from the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The total includes oil and gas extraction operations, and support activities, and sectors such as fossil-fuel-based power generation.
What California decides to do about oil industry workers has the potential to ripple beyond the nation’s most populous state, said Catherine Houston, legislative, political and rapid response coordinator with United Steelworkers District 12.That union represents many oil industry workers.
“California typically takes the lead in a lot of these types of things, and we become an example for other states across the nation,” Houston said. “So whatever we do can potentially serve as a federal model.”
The Golden State sees itself as leading the nation with its policies to limit climate change, aiming to switch to 100 percent clean electricity and to phase out use of gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles. Those policies and others mean about 3,200 oil industry workers will be displaced per year through 2030, the PERI study said.
It could happen faster in some places. On Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council banned new oil and gas wells in the city and will phase out existing ones. It’s the second busiest oil drilling region in the state behind Kern County, so some job losses are expected.
Helping industry workers is an issue Democratic lawmakers have discussed for years, but the state so far has taken little concrete action. Newsom in unveiling his proposed budget for 2022-23 earlier this month included $50 million to work on a plan to transition oil industry workers.