WASHINGTON — As Congress works to provide relief to Texans suffering during the pandemic and its stifled economy, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Congressman Michael Burgess (TX-26) co-authored the following op-ed in the Midland Reporter-Telegram on their SAVE Jobs Act to help Texas’ energy industry:
SAVE Jobs Act Will Boost Energy Job Market
Senator John Cornyn and Congressman Michael Burgess
July 26, 2020
The entire world is reeling from the pandemic’s impact, but Texas in particular has been hit with a one-two punch. This coronavirus has taken a firm hold on our state, and alongside it, our energy industry – one of our state’s largest and proudest sectors – suffers from low oil prices and lower demand.
In places like the Permian Basin, the effects of the downturn are more acute. A region that had been dubbed one of “the hottest labor markets in the country” just last year reached a double-digit rate of unemployment this spring, a more than 600 percent increase from the previous year. Nearly 90,000 workers produced about four million barrels of oil per day last year. That output had been expected to double by 2023, but now hundreds of oil rigs – and the Texans who work them – sit idle.
Even those West Texans who don’t directly work in energy are experiencing the cascading effects of slower production. Rural Texas counties that have come to rely on support from a booming energy industry are struggling to finance school programs and ambulatory services. Two-thirds of hotel rooms in the Permian Basin sit empty, and “closed” signs adorn the windows of too many locally owned restaurants, shops, and salons. Sadly, then, it comes as no surprise that the West Texas Food Bank reports local demand for food assistance has doubled.
Texas has survived bust economies before, but none quite like this. Our state’s energy workers – who account for nearly 20 percent of the nation’s 6.8 million industry employees – are left looking for extra hours in an economy that can’t support them. These workers represent much more than a statistic – they’re our neighbors, parents of our children’s classmates, and volunteers at our local nonprofits. What’s more, the 2020 U.S. Energy & Employment report found that energy workers are more likely to be military veterans and more racially diverse than other industries. Energy workers represent all of us, and they need our help. In both the Senate and the House, we’ve introduced a bill to deliver.
The SAVE Jobs Act, also supported by Congressman Mike Conaway, supports U.S. energy producers so they can maintain their workforce through this downturn. More energy workers on the payrolls means lower unemployment numbers for energy-heavy economies like in West Texas, and in turn, more business for Main Street – even if it is curbside for now. It means those energy workers can provide food for their families and patronize their favorite restaurants. And it means the Permian Basin’s barbers, servers, and other service providers will be in higher demand and keep more of their hours.
Our bill also helps domestic energy companies invest in their infrastructure during the decline so that when demand for production inevitably returns, the industry will have both the workers and the equipment needed to support it. In the short term, this means more work for construction employees and manufacturers. In the long term, this means greater capacity for production so that when it’s safe to travel again, Texans can support their neighbors by filling up their tanks with U.S.-produced gasoline or flying on domestically fueled planes rather than supporting foreign adversaries and competitors in the Middle East.
Smart energy policy cannot only prioritize workers and domestic production – we also need to balance protecting our state’s natural resources to ensure long-term solvency. Importantly, the SAVE Jobs Act also helps the United States maintain its lead in global emissions reduction by allowing greater flexibility for more carbon capture projects to qualify for federal incentives. Because these projects use new technology, they require a longer runway to plan and finance and are therefore uniquely vulnerable to the pandemic’s uncertainty. Helping eco-friendly energy companies take advantage of existing tax credits will encourage more producers to reduce emissions and could increase the share of carbon-neutral energy companies.
It is possible to be pro-worker, pro-energy, pro-environment, and pro-growth. Our bill proves it. We’re proud of Texas energy workers, who literally fuel our state and nation, and we’re thankful to be in a position to help.
Until we cross over to the other side of the pandemic and solve the energy demand problem it created, the SAVE Jobs Act will provide relief to the industry and its hardworking employees. Texas energy needs a boost, and we’re confident this bill can fuel them through the downturn.