Workers in the oil- and gas industry feel enviromentalists don't care about their jobs, and have little faith in the theoretical green jobs of the future.

New report shows workers in the fossil fuels industry have a deep distrust of environmentalists

Distrust against environmentalists is widespread among those employed in oil- and gas-related businesses. There’s also a sense of bitterness against unions that are pushing for a more climate friendly industry.

Employees within fossil fuel industries are feeling pressure from all sides in the climate debate. They especially distrust the environmental movement, according to a new report from researchers at the University of Oslo.

The oil-workers feel that they’re losing support from other parts of the labour movement, the young, the media, politicians and from people that don’t live near the industry hubs. They also feel that they’re under pressure from their own employers.

They feel cornered, according to the researchers.

Feel threatened

The report is based on conversations with union representatives in the oil- and gas-industry and members of the Norwegian environmental movement. The work was commissioned by the Norwegian socialist think-tank Manifest.

The report finds a deep and emotional polarization between environmentalists and fossil fuel workers.

The workers feel that the environmental movement threatens their livelihoods, and that environmentalists have no empathy for them. They also feel there’s a lack of realistic plans for what should happen to the roughly 100.000 people whose jobs are dependent on the Norwegian fossil fuel industry today.

The polarization has led to a sharp tone in discussions, where environmentalists are referred to as extremists, ignorant and ideologically driven. This provokes strong reactions from the environmentalists.

Oil workers don’t have much patience for other groups that offer their opinions on climate policy connected to their livelihoods. They’re especially provoked by public worker unions that promote their views, as the fossil fuel workers view themselves as the ones largely financing the entire public sector, according to the report.

“It feels like getting stabbed in the back,” said one industry union representative, referring to two other public unions that publicly back a controlled phasing out of the oil- and gas industries.

Common goals

Now both sides are calling for “couples therapy.”

“The environmental movement needs to have the fossil fuel workers as allies. We should take the fear these workers are living with even more seriously. How are they going to provide for their families? What jobs are waiting for them in the low-emission future that the green movement keeps talking about,” says Anja Bakken Riise, leader of Framtiden i våre hender (The Future in our Hands), Norway’s largest environmental organization.

Atle Tranøy, who represents shipyard workers at Aker Solutions Stord in Western Norway, says to NTB that it’s obvious that he and other employees in the fossil fuel industry often interpret input from the enviromentalists in the worst possible way.

He thinks that the renewables sector represents unique possibilities for new, Norwegian industries, and says that the fossil fuel industry can’t keep wasting valuable time fighting those that could be allies for new, green jobs.

The report says the two groups lack common meeting grounds, and that this is part of their problem. It suggests that the environmentalists and the fossil fuel workers should stop fighting and instead join forces for common goals.

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