Was Labor Duped by Dubious Jobs Numbers?

700,000 Jobs from Oil Drilling in Alaska? Says Who?

by Connie Harvey

August 25, 2001



Environmentally conscious people were stunned by the recent House vote for the Bush energy bill, especially the part that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) on Alaska's coastal plain to oil drilling. It's very clear, as repeated polls have shown, that most Americans want to preserve the refuge for wildlife, just as its name suggests. The bill was expected to pass the House, but not by the margin it received. It's been predicted that ANWR will be laid to rest when the Senate takes up the energy bill next month, but in light of the House vote, this now seems much more doubtful.


What happened? Not only Republicans, but 38 Democrats voted for the House bill. The reason, apparently, was the support of labor unions for drilling in the refuge, and their stated rationale is that drilling in ANWR will create 700,000 additional jobs.


To me, that number seemed extraordinary, so your sleuth for truth set off to try some investigative reporting of my own, using the Internet, fax and telephone as my tools. I started by going to the AFL/CIO website, where I found absolutely no mention of ANWR at all. Labor's rank-and-file certainly never got to vote on the decision to support drilling ANWR, but I was surprised to see it totally ignored.


Then I struck pay dirt on the website of Alaska Senator Frank Murkowski.


Like Alaska's other congressmen, Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Don Young, Murkowski is a staunch advocate of corporate exploitation of our public lands regardless of environmental costs. He's the ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and when I looked there, I found a speech he'd given that included that figure of 700,000 ANWR-dependent jobs. I called his office and eventually learned that the number came from an organization in Alaska called Arctic Power, a group funded by the state of Alaska for the express purpose of opening ANWR to drilling. I reached Arctic Power in the person of Brenda Szyminski, who said the statistic came from a 1990 report prepared by the Wharton Econometric Forecasting Association and paid for by the American Petroleum Institute in Washington, D.C. She even managed to find and fax to me an eight-page summary of the report.


Meanwhile, I tried to call the WEFA, as she called it, in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. It no longer exists there, but I found it on the Internet, where as the result of a merger it has been renamed DRI-WEFA, and is now a subsidiary of an international company called Global Insight, run by Joseph Kasputys, once CEO of a gas company called Primark, which he transformed over the last 13 years into a global information company, acquiring 50 other companies along the way. His executive vice president is Michael Kargula, who was a senior attorney for Shell Oil.


By going to my favorite Internet search engine, I unearthed more articles mentioning the 700,000 jobs. Not one of them questioned the validity of the statistic, but I did learn more about how the Bush administration courted labor, inviting top officials from 23 labor unions to private meetings with Vice President Dick Cheney and others, to convince them to support opening ANWR. There were meetings in March and again in May, as well as more recent ones reported by the mainstream press. Not only This column originally appeared in the Aspen Daily News.Jimmy Hoffa and Jerry Hood of the Teamsters Union, but Michael Sacco of the Maritime Trades and Douglas McCarron of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, were won over by the numbers. A new labor coalition called "Job Power: Americans for Energy Employment" was formed in the wake of these meetings. That slogan also appears on the letterhead of Arctic Power, and the latter organization also has an office in Washington, D.C.


To return to the 1990 brief that provides the underpinning for all this, it reminds me a bit of the disproportionate influence that Florida Secretary of State Kathleen Harris had on the outcome of the last presidential election. The document assumes something the Bush administration keeps denying that it plans to do, namely the full scale, all-out exploration and drilling of the entire 1.5-million-acre Arctic Refuge coastal plain. Bush keeps insisting that the drilling will be confined to 2,000 acres, and won't harm the environment, while the report has the colossal nerve to claim that other North Slope drilling has done no harm, while the exact opposite is true. The mess made at Prudhoe Bay is a glaring example.


Only 12,795 of the over 735,000 jobs the report claims could be generated are actually in Alaska, and almost all are "indirect macro-economic effects" so tenuously related that proving they are related at all, if in fact they ever happen, would be impossible. These pie-in-the-sky jobs are strewn all over the country with mathematically preposterous precision. Alabama will gain 10,392 jobs, Hawaii 2,702, Wisconsin 13,814 and so on. This is total phony-baloney, and it's sad to see the labor bosses, Congress, the media and presumably the public swallowing this 11-year-old so-called study, which in my opinion is a lot of pretentious and deliberately deceptive swill.


Unless American citizens wise up and rise up right now to demand the attention of their senators, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge may be lost to this industry-funded, shoddy pseudo-science masquerading as research.


Connie Harvey resides in Snomass, Colorado. This article first appeared in the Aspen Daily News.