That's what readers must be asking after seeing this piece discussing the prospects for fracking in Australia. The piece tell readers:

"Whereas about 1.5 million fracking jobs have taken place in the United States, only 2,500 have occurred in Australia, according to the Victoria report."

It's not clear where the NYT got the 1.5 million jobs figure, but it's a safe bet that it is not from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The December, 2013 jobs figure for oil and gas extraction 48,400 higher than the December 2007 number, before the impact of both fracking and the recession. The figure for mining and support activities is up by 98,400. If we assume that this is all due to fracking then the total increase in employment is 146,800, less than one-tenth of the NYT's number.

While there are undoubtedly some secondary effects from respending by workers in this sector and lower gas prices, if these are included then it would also be necessary to count the loss of jobs in the coal industry, clean energy and conservation sectors. There is no plausible story that could get from number of jobs in the sector reported by to the NYT's 1.5 million.

It also would have been useful if this piece was more specific about the environmental issues raised in Australia. In the United States, firms engaged in fracking have a special exemption from the Safe Water Drinking Act which lets them keep secret the chemicals used in fracking. The exemption was justified on the grounds that the mix of chemicals used is an industrial secret. This makes it difficult to determine if they have polluted groundwater. It would be worth knowing if the same issue has come in Australia. 

 

Correction:

I have been informed that "fracking jobs" refers to sites that have been fracked, not people employed. My guess is that a small fraction of NYT readers would have known this. As a result, the statement may well be true, but likely would have misled the vast majority of the people who read it.

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