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Reproduced from Resources for the Future via IOGCC; Note: For estimated undocumented wells, average of low and high estimate was used for states that report a range; Chart: Axios Visuals

There's a lot of jobs potential if the federal government gets serious about plugging what could be as many as 3 million abandoned oil-and-gas wells nationwide, a new report from Resources for the Future and a Columbia University energy think tank concludes.

Why it matters: Abandoned wells can leak methane — a very potent planet-warming gas — and other pollutants. If it tackles 500,000 of those, this could mean up to 120,000 more jobs.

  • The idea comes as oil-and-gas industry workers are reeling from layoffs due to the price and demand collapse.

The big picture: Estimates for the number of abandoned wells nationwide range from hundreds of thousands to 3 million, "depending on the definition of such wells needing attention," the report notes.

  • "A significant federal program to plug orphan wells could create tens of thousands of jobs, potentially as many as 120,000 if 500,000 wells were plugged," it finds.
  • It points out that the oil industry has equipment and labor available for the job, given that the sector shed more than 76,000 jobs (and counting) this year.

By the numbers: They estimate that the costs of plugging the "known inventory" of roughly 57,000 wells could range from $1.4 billion to $2.7 billion, while identifying and plugging 500,000 wells could plausibly cost $12 billion to $24 billion.

What we're watching: Joe Biden's climate and energy plan calls for new investments in cleaning up old wells as well as mining sites.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Oct 26, 2020 - Economy & Business

Private equity shifts its attention to renewable energy

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Private equity is watching the consolidation of the North American oil and gas sector from the sidelines, instead focusing its energy efforts on renewables.

Driving the news: Cenovus Energy on Sunday agreed to buy Husky Energy for $2.9 billion in stock, in a deal that would create Canada’s third-largest oil and gas producer.

Updated 26 seconds ago - Economy & Business

At least 3 dead after Amtrak train derails in Montana

Photo: Jacob Cordeiro/Twitter

An Amtrak train derailed near Joplin, Montana, resulting in at least three deaths and multiple injuries to passengers and crew on Saturday, per a company statement.

The big picture: Some 147 passengers and 13 crew were aboard the Empire Builder train, which runs from Seattle to Chicago, when seven cars derailed about 4p.m., Amtrak spokesperson Kimberly Woods said in an emailed statement.

Updated 42 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Federal judge blocks vaccine mandate for NYC teachers

Students are dismissed from the first day of school at PS 133 in Brooklyn on Sept. 13. Photo: Michael Nagle/Xinhua via Getty Images

A federal appeals court is set to hear a challenge Wednesday to a vaccine mandate planned for New York City school employees.

Why it matters The vaccine mandate was set to begin on Monday, prompting concerns over staffing shortages in schools across the nation's largest school system. But a judge on Friday temporarily blocked the measure, per AP.

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