What Would the Cutback of Fossil Fuels Mean for Businesses?

Since America began using fossil fuels as a source of energy, the coal, oil, petroleum and gas industries have bloomed into an enterprise that few other industries can match. Additionally, with the increase in self-driving cars, motor and electric vehicles, the fossil fuel industry doesn’t look to be going anywhere anytime soon. However, one can’t help but ask the essential “what if.” 

What happens if fossil fuels are cut back? How would industries like petroleum, oil, gas, and coal function without their chief source of commodity? What would these cutbacks mean for employees?

A 2020 article by Yale Climate Connections titled “Coronavirus pandemic leads to profound cutbacks in fossil fuel use” states that, according to an IEA analysis, the COVID-19 pandemic had a ripple effect on the fossil fuel industry and that, as demand plummeted, the supply of these fossil fuels started to freeze. The fact that the demand for such fossil fuels is decreasing in the midst of a widespread pandemic isn’t shocking, as the need for these resources pales in comparison to other commodities like food and water. This is due in part because of the stay-at-home orders that are in effect.

Despite this lack of demand, fossil fuel businesses still need to make a profit if they want to continue operating. They still have to provide gas, oil and coal for their consumers, but at what cost?

Karin Kirk, the writer for this article, asks a similar question: “How does the current downturn in fossil fuel use compare to what’s needed to put the world on track to avoid the most severe effects of climate change? As we proceed down a decades-long path to a fossil fuel phase-out, at what point would emissions have to be limited to right where they are currently – but permanently rather than temporarily?” (Kirk).

These questions that Kirk posits should get businesses to question what kind of society fossil fuel industries want to create for future generations. While fossil fuels, at the moment, create vast numbers of jobs, what happens when the cutbacks come into fruition? 

In a 2020 opinion article for The Colorado Sun titled “Transitioning away from fossil fuels will mean more jobs, not fewer,” Susan Atkinson argues that, despite what most people might say, a transition away from the fossil fuel industry would create more jobs, with better or at least comparable wages. Although I don’t know a lot about what the transition away from fossil fuels would entail for businesses and employees, from the conversations that have taken place in the political sphere; it’s not going to be easy.

Atkinson argues that the United States will still need energy, whether that comes from zero-carbon sources or from older pollution sources. However, she states that renewable energy technology will actually help create more jobs that are better paid, and will continue to do so even as the “new energy technology is put in place.”

“Not only is renewable electricity already cost-competitive with fossil-generated power in many locations, it provides 50% more jobs, at similar pay, for the same amount of energy” (Atkinson).

If renewable energy would provide 50% more jobs, as Atkinson claims, then when the cutbacks for fossil fuels became too great for businesses and its employees, the employees won’t have to fear “what comes next” because they could, in theory, move from a fossil fuel-oriented job to one of renewable energy. The businesses, however, are out of luck if they don’t adopt renewable-energy models. 


Atkinson, Susan. “Opinion: Transitioning away from fossil fuels will mean more jobs, not fewer.” The Colorado Sun, https://coloradosun.com/2020/11/30/fossil-fuels-clean-energy-opinion/. Accessed 5 April 2021.

Kirk, Karin. “Coronavirus pandemic leads to profound cutbacks in fossil fuel use.” Yale Climate Connections, https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2020/04/coronavirus-pandemic-leads-to-profound-cutbacks-in-fossil-fuel-use/. Accessed 5 April 2021.


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