Jan 25, 2023

A new report claims that California’s chaotic and costly transition away from oil and gas won’t hurt nearly as many workers as several previous studies have shown.

One problem: the report is seriously flawed.

Released by the Gender Equity Policy Institute (GEPI), which keeps close ties with radical climate activist groups calling for the shutdown of all oil and gas production within California, the report undercounts the number of impacted workers in several important ways.

First, the GEPI analysis ignores the huge number of California jobs in industries such as construction, engineering, and transportation that would be impacted by declines in oil and gas production. For example, there are thousands of electricians and construction contractors working in oilfields and refineries that the report wholly excludes.

In addition, GEPI altogether dismisses an entire category of more than 13,000 engineers, financial analysts, and lawyers that it claims should “be able to transition with ease to other industries without retraining.” In blindly dismissing these workers, GEPI fails to recognize how oil and gas production professionals require specialized training. Petroleum engineers can’t turn into aerospace engineers overnight, and a lawyer who has worked 20 years on oil production issues is not interchangeable with one in a completely different field who works in a completely different area of law.

But beyond the considerable technical flaws obvious in the GEPI report, another concern emerges. Other studies have taken a serious look at policy-related displacement of oil and gas industry workers with an eye toward delivering the necessary assistance for a fair and just transition. The GEPI analysis, meanwhile, seems unconcerned with achieving justice for workers, apparently aiming for a far lesser outcome: “What’s the least the state could get away with?”

Indeed, reporting on the GEPI analysis, the Sacramento Bee noted that “the report varies widely from forecasts made in previous studies on the oil and gas industry’s impact in the Golden State.” While GEPI projects – at the high end, no less – only $68.9 million in worker assistance will be needed annually for 10 years, a University of Massachusetts-Amherst study found that assistance programs would cost California up to $830 million per year for 10 years.

GEPI’s outlier analysis and sudden interest in oil and gas worker displacement are curious. After all, every other report the group has published focuses on the intersection of government policy and gender equity.

The group does not disclose the funder behind its oil and gas workforce report or any of its other sources of revenues. And while other GEPI reports list a specific author, the oil and gas analysis does not.

Notably, however, the group keeps close ties with climate activists aiming to shut down oil and gas production in California. GEPI’s founder, Nancy Cohen, served on the Advisory Board for the Liberty Hill Foundation – a key funder of shutdown advocates in Los Angeles – and consulted for the Environmental Defense Fund. Furthermore, GEPI shares an address with Climate Resolve, another energy-focused activist group in Los Angeles founded and run by Cohen’s husband.

Bottom line, an outlier analysis with serious flaws and undisclosed funding has been put forward by a group with zero experience in the subject matter and strong ties to radical activist perspectives.

The GEPI report should not be taken seriously in Sacramento.