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Frack Check: Trump inflates Pennsylvania fracking job figures by 3500 percent

click to enlarge Frack Check: Trump inflates Pennsylvania fracking job figures by 3500 percent
Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour
Donald Trump leaving the rally in Latrobe, Pa.
Yesterday, President Donald Trump held a campaign rally in Latrobe, Pa., just an hour east of Pittsburgh. There, he lobbed many insults and made many false claims, but arguably none more egregious than one about jobs in Pennsylvania’s natural-gas, aka fracking, industry.

According to WESA editor Chris Potter, Trump claimed during his speech that there are currently 940,000 natural-gas jobs in Pennsylvania. A gross exaggeration.

According to multiple analysis and data from state and federal labor departments, there are around 26,000 jobs in Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industries. Trump inflated the amount of fracking jobs in Pennsylvania by more than 3500%.

According to a March analysis of federal employment data by environmental group Food & Water Watch, there were approximately 636,000 jobs directly related to oil and natural gas extraction from 2016-2018 nationally. In Pennsylvania, there were 26,000 jobs in these industries during this time span.

Since 2018, the fracking industry has struggled, as gas prices remain low. In the Pittsburgh region, hundreds of jobs have been lost, and large fracking companies are divesting from the area.

Other analysis corroborate these figures. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, there are between 20,000 to 50,000 jobs in, and supported by, the state’s fracking industry.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2017, there were about 967,000 total jobs in the oil and gas and supported industries throughout America. But nothing close to those figures when just counting Pennsylvania jobs. In fact, it is hard to find job figures as high as Trump is claiming in any Pennsylvania sector. Only jobs in “Trade, Transportation, and Utilities” and “Education and Health Services” have figures over 940,000 jobs in the commonwealth.

Conservatives and fracking boosters have been known to exaggerate the number of jobs in the natural-gas sector. Local congressional candidate Sean Parnell (R-Ohio Township) claimed in March that “over 100,000 oil and gas jobs in Western PA would vanish” under a plan proposed by Biden that would ban new permits for oil and gas drilling on federal land and off-shore. (Only about 2% of Pennsylvania is comprised of federal land.)

Obviously, with only about 26,000 fracking-related jobs in the entire state, this is impossible. And Parnell’s claim is more outlandish when considering, as of December 2019, there were only 4,900 direct jobs in Pennsylvania, according to BLS figures. There might be more jobs when considering employment at natural-gas power plants. But, according to the recent Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Energy Employment Report, there were only about 3,000 jobs in electricity generation by natural gas in Pennsylvania in 2019. (By comparison, there were more than 8,100 jobs in electricity generation by solar and wind in 2019).

And while Republicans politicians like Trump continue to make fracking a campaign issue, the majority of Pennsylvanians may not be on their side. According to a recent CBS/YouGov poll, 52% oppose fracking in Pennsylvania, compared to 48% who support.

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