Texas could add tens of thousands of jobs if the state seriously commits itself to driving down its methane emissions, finds a report from the Texas Climate Jobs Project released Wednesday. But state leadership has thus far refused funding from the federal government for anti-methane measures.
Methane lasts for less time in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, but it’s much more intense and can do some serious damage while it’s around. As we increasingly run out of time to right the ship and keep warming below disastrous levels, slashing methane emissions is becoming a priority. In 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said for the first time that the world needs to focus on bringing down methane emissions to keep in line with the targets set in the Paris Agreement.
One of the world’s largest sources of methane is oil and gas production, and a study last year found that we could be undercounting emissions from that sector by up to 70%. And Texas’s Permian Basin, one of the largest oil and gas producing regions in the world, is home base for some of the most aggressive methane polluters in the U.S., making Texas the top methane-emitting state in the country.
The Biden administration has made combatting methane a priority—and has made the cash available to work on the issue. The EPA has significantly strengthened its regulations around methane emissions from oil and gas since Biden took office; in November, the administration said it would propose a supplemental rule to cut methane emissions 30% by 2030. The Interior Department has made more than $1 billion available to states to plug orphan oil and gas wells—a big source of emissions—while the Inflation Reduction Act has also provided an additional $1.55 billion for methane reduction.
To calculate the number of jobs needed, the report’s authors first calculated the number of sites that would be impacted by both the EPA’s methane rule as well as the federal government’s orphan well capping program. In addition to old wells, these sites include the infrastructure in use at active oil and gas sites, like storage tanks, pneumatic controllers, and compressor stations. They then modeled how many employees would be needed to address these various issues, using data on cost of repairs and maintenance, the hourly cost of work, and the number of hours estimated to be needed to complete various tasks.
The results are not small. More than 19,400 jobs could be created with the bare minimum of mitigation efforts mandated by the Biden administration. If Texas really buckled down and went above and beyond, by more aggressively implementing methane mitigation techniques, it could create 35,000 jobs.
“We think this is a win-win situation for Texas, the industry and Texas workers,” Christopher Agbo, research and policy coordinator at Texas Climate Jobs Project and one of the coauthors of the report, told Earther in an email.
Notably, the numbers produced in this report do not include workers in the oil and gas industry who are already involved in methane mitigation work—a workforce that has grown to twice the size it was in 2017. Many oil majors have aggressively advertised their own methane reduction measures as ways of signaling that they’re acting on climate, while continuing to back policies that would reduce regulation of methane emissions. We emailed Chevron, which has a whole section of its website devoted to methane management, asking for any data on workforce numbers related to methane mitigation, and will update this story if the company gets back to us.
Unfortunately for Texans looking for well-paying jobs, the state, unlike Big Oil, believes that methane mitigation isn’t the way to go. In response to President Biden’s first moves on climate—which included methane regulations—Governor Greg Abbott directed state agencies in January 2021 to “use all lawful powers and tools to challenge any federal action that threatens the continued strength, vitality, and independence of the energy industry.” Texas regulators have complained loudly about methane regulations, calling them “burdensome.” Railroad Commission of Texas Chairman Wayne Christian—himself a climate denier—called the EPA’s methane rule “to tax and regulate the oil and gas industry out of existence,” saying the measure would “kill clean fossil fuel jobs.” They’ve even gone so far as to turn down free money: in January 2023, Railroad Commission Chief Christi Craddock said the state would not accept $300 million to cap abandoned wells until it “see[s] what [the federal] rules are” associated with taking the money.
Despite the state’s seemingly hostile attitude toward giving methane mitigation a chance, the authors of this report said they’ll be spreading their findings in hopes of opening some doors for methane jobs to take off in Texas.
“We want to show the public and policy makers that you can clean up the environment while creating good, well-paying family sustaining jobs,” Agbo said. “Cutting emissions is not a job killer, rather it is a job creator.”