While the climate crisis and pandemic have played a role, so has a long period of cheap oil prices. Going forward, the finances of oil won’t get any rosier. Nearly every major American bank has pulled back from funding Arctic oil drilling despite the Trump administration egging it on. Oil sands are starting to falter, and pipeline projects are getting canceled. Activists have constrained fossil fuel companies’ social license to operate by making a case for the immorality of more extraction. Their case is based on the very real nuts-and-bolts problem that financing more oil and gas extraction will destroy the planet billions of humans currently occupy. That’s a problem whether you love making money or hugging trees (or both, which, good for you).

The end of the era of oil is beginning in earnest right now, and it’s vital that we come up with a plan for how to go about it rather than just letting the market decide. Left to its own devices, the companies making up an ever-smaller sliver of the S&P 500 are likely to prioritize shareholders and C-suite executives over the workers who made them what they are. Any just plan for life after oil involves ensuring those workers are part of the conversation about what that looks like and how they can be a part of it. Some plans are already out there, including employing highly skilled workers to cap the 2.1. million abandoned oil wells that dot the American landscape, emitting greenhouse gases all the while. It’s one of many solutions that can put people to work and help the climate. I’m not an economist, but that sure seems like a better return on investment than continuing to throw money at the industry as it currently exists.