Essential Energy Workforce Continues to Power California
An op-ed originally featured in the LA/OC Building Trades News December 2020 Issue:
By Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council and
California Resources Corporation
As we reflect on 2020, it was quite a year for Californians and the entire nation. We’ve faced an unimaginable pandemic that has changed just about every aspect of our day-to-day life, challenging Californians to adapt as we navigate the COVID-19 “new normal.” We have borne witness to many California businesses that have been and are being heavily impacted by the outbreak, devastating working Californians and their families. We also weathered an extremely disruptive national election. However, we shouldn’t lose hope. These challenging times have shown the importance of critical energy infrastructure and how essential frontline workers from the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California are ensuring reliable oil, natural gas and electricity are delivered to Californians when they need it most. One thing that remains steady at both the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council and California Resources Corporation is that we work together as partners in these unprecedented times. Our hard work is critical and underpins our fellow Californians’ quality of life.
Early on in the pandemic, thanks in large part to Building Trades leadership, the blue-collar workers who keep California powered at local oilfields, refineries and power plants were deemed essential workers by the Governor’s executive order. The Governor recognized the necessity of having highly skilled workers from the Building Trades maintain diverse, reliable energy sources during the lockdown. The Governor’s designation recognized what we already knew: California energy workers are essential in every way.
California currently has more than 30 million registered cars and trucks on the road and less than 1% of them are all electric. California is almost entirely dependent on oil and natural gas to keep cars and trucks moving down the freeway to meet our daily needs, and this reality will remain for decades. We also expect increasingly cleaner refining and lower and zero emission fuels, carbon sequestration, and other innovations in response to our shared concerns about the global environment. The progress of this energy journey leaves us a choice: Should we meet our own energy demand by producing it here in California under the strictest environmental and labor laws in the world, or delegate our environmental stewardship elsewhere and continue to increasingly import our energy? Californians deserve better. They deserve affordable, reliable, safe and secure energy produced right here in California in facilities constructed and maintained by the Building Trades.
In 2018, California imported 370 million barrels of foreign oil, equating to California sending $25 billion per year to countries like Saudi Arabia, Ecuador and Iraq. Importing energy means we are aren’t just exporting money, we are exporting good paying California jobs to places that do not share our values on human rights, workers’ rights, or the environment.
And what about the working Californians who have these jobs right now? The oil and natural gas industry currently supports more than 100,000 jobs statewide, and the jobs pay on average more than $75,000 a year for people who do not have the luxury of a college degree. Beyond the Building Trades and the energy industry, there aren’t many jobs in California anymore that allow working people a path to the middle class. We are proud to provide a pathway to the American dream for our diverse communities. Activists and their billionaire backers who want to shutter California’s energy industry are promising working families future “green jobs” in exchange for their real careers today. But once you look at the facts beneath their rhetoric, it turns out they aren’t talking apples to apples; it’s more like apples to crabgrass.
A recent study by the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California on existing and future green jobs found these pay on average only two-thirds of traditional energy jobs. Additionally, these jobs tend to be seasonal, short-term, and part-time – not lifelong, full-time careers such as the Building Trades offer now. We cannot tolerate extremist agendas hell-bent on shutting down an existing industry that empowers and sustains diverse existing middle-class careers in exchange for low-paying jobs that cannot support a family. This is not a deal that working Californians, their families, or the Golden State can afford.
As we welcome 2021, it’s important we continually remind our elected officials and regulators that for California to work, blue-collar Californians are essential and need to keep working too.
On behalf of the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council and California Resources Corporation, we are grateful for the hard-working women and men who continue to work tirelessly to bring us safe, reliable and affordable energy to power our state. Stay safe, and we look forward to the good work to come.