May 10, 2022

Why natural gas can help create good union jobs – and accelerate a clean energy future

Labor unions help America transition to a net-zero world

James T. Callahan of the International Union of Operating Engineers and Mark McManus of the United Association

May 10, 2022

There’s no doubt that sources of American energy are changing to better meet our climate needs. And, yes, renewable energy is expanding dramatically as part of our all-of-the-above energy approach.

But renewables alone cannot help us meet our ambitious shared climate goals. Without natural gas, our push towards a cleaner net-zero future will be stalled in its tracks. America’s carbon emissions are the lowest they’ve been in over three decades, and nearly two-thirds of that progress is a result of switching from coal-fired electric plants to cleaner natural gas-powered facilities.

To stay on this path to a global clean energy future, we need to continue to invest in natural gas infrastructure. This will help us achieve domestic and international climate goals while lifting up hardworking, middle-class families that support the U.S. energy industry.

Not only will natural gas help the U.S. reach net-zero emission goals and generate good-paying jobs, but it will allow us to reduce global threats by relying on our own domestic resources and achieving energy independence. Even more, by prioritizing investments in natural gas, we can keep life reliable and affordable for American families.

That’s why the International Union of Operating Engineers and the United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters stand in solidarity with America’s natural gas industry.


Our elected officials may be debating the path towards America’s clean energy future, but everyone should recognize the many opportunities and benefits that natural gas provides when included in this approach. For starters, it creates thousands of good-paying American jobs in the unionized construction industry — from building and maintaining natural gas infrastructure to converting coal-burning, carbon-emitting electric plants into cleaner facilities that use natural gas.

These family-sustaining jobs prove that the climate crisis cannot be solved with renewables alone. In order to lower our carbon emissions as fast as possible, renewables and natural gas must work together. To put it simply: We can’t build a clean energy future in the dark.

To continue moving forward toward a net-zero future, our country needs labor unions to help us get there. We’re already working in the sectors most responsible for our nation’s carbon reductions by installing and maintaining natural gas infrastructure. Thousands of workers across the country are represented by unionized construction trades and they are prepared for what it takes to accelerate our clean energy future.  


Cleaning up the environment is not just an abstract concept. It requires hard work and a skilled labor force that has a strong incentive — and the institutional knowlege — to maintain the infrastructure that’s already in place in this country. Our nation has an existing 2.5-million-mile natural gas network that can help us deliver and store the fuels of the future, such as low-or zero-carbon hydrogen and renewable natural gas. This is the infrastructure our members work on, day in and day out.

Because natural gas is the most affordable energy source and fuels 40 percent of the U.S. electric grid, it helps middle-class families do more than just get by. Homes fueled by natural gas save on average more than $900 per year when compared to homes fueled only by electricity.

Prioritizing the investment of domestic natural gas will keep energy bills affordable and lower the price of gas all while reducing global threats. 

As we transition to a carbon-free world, we must ensure America’s workers are supported along the way. With strong labor protections attached to the jobs building, maintaining, and improving our natural gas infrastructure, working families can make ends meet while powering a cleaner, more reliable, and more affordable energy future.


The math speaks for itself: More jobs plus lower bills means prosperity across the board. This isn’t political — it’s about workers, their jobs, and their families. It’s about workers’ rights as well as the health and safety of our future. Tough decisions need to be made to reach a net-zero world, and it’s important that we rely on the Americans who are already building, creating, and innovating. These essential workers keep our country safe by building state-of-the-art infrastructure and are leading the world towards a cleaner future.