The oil and gas industry has launched a publicity campaign to remind Americans about the key role of fossil fuels in the nation's economy.
The American Petroleum Institute said this week the industry has about 44,000 jobs in North Carolina. The jobs span the gamut: gas station attendants, energy traders, truckers, manufacturing operations and more.
The message: Mess with those jobs and you'll wreak havoc with peoples' livelihoods. Or put another way: What's good for oil and gas is good for America.
Actually, the API's press release says the industry supports 135,000 jobs, or 2.6 percent of the state total. The figures are from 2009.
But that total breaks down to 41,636 direct jobs and almost 94,000 indirect and induced employment, the kinds of fuzzy extrapolations that economic developers like to call the multiplier effect.
We'll stick with the 41,636 because it provides the closest comparison to jobs in the emerging green energy sector.
According to the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association, a trade group for solar developers and other renewables, their sector has created somewhere between 13,000 and 14,000 full-time jobs in the state. The trade group counts jobs in which the worker spends at least 50 percent of his/her time working on renewables or energy efficiency.
Those jobs include a Dupont solar panel facility near Fayetteville; Consert, ABB and other smart grid technology developers in the Triangle; and PPG Industries, a Pennsylvania company that makes wind turbine components in the western part of this state.
Many of those jobs have been created through state and federal incentives and tax policies that subsidize renewables and conservation. Green advocates say the same is true for oil and gas jobs.
The N.C. SEA doesn't include jobs in law or finance, which are counted by the API (to be precise, 3,444 jobs in North Carolina in finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing).
But if the figures are comparable, and they appear to be, that would mean that this state's green energy sector is about one-fourth the size of the traditional fossil fuels sector. By any measure, that's a significant leap forward for a jobs category that barely registered on the public consciousness five years ago.
Apropos of green jobs, the N.C. SEA released a survey this week saying that 84 percent of North Carolinians support increasing clean energy in the state. The poll, conducted by Fallon Research of Columbus, Ohio, surveyed 800 residents.
The trade group released its survey as part of its campaign to promote alternative energy legislaiton in the N.C. General Assembly.