Communities that have depended economically on coal are facing impacts now that communities that similarly rely on oil and gas will face in the future, speakers suggested at a Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs event.  Such communities, along with county and state governments, should consider partnerships with producers to help retrain employees and others who want to stay, they said during the Mar. 14 discussion at Resources for the Future about public policy reactions to oil-producing regions’ economic volatility.

“We are working now with 22 new governors from the last elections, many of who are trying to develop new energy policies,” said Dianne Rahm, a political science professor at Texas State University in San Macros. “Even with states having a lot of oil development, it’s usually heavily concentrated and can be overlooked by policymakers,” Rahm said. “Several now are looking at a possible shift in oil’s use as a transportation fuel as they build more vehicle electrification infrastructure.”

Government planners should consider ways to diversify the economy, build a better social safety net by expanding Medicaid to include displaced oil field workers, and retrain those workers to use their skills in other industries, Rahm said.  “There is a real opportunity to have a robust oil economy that doesn’t drive a state’s economy,” she said. “Oil companies are diversifying their operations and beginning to get into electrification, although solar and wind employment dropped somewhat when the Trump Administration imposed tariffs.”