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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.

Trump's coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas resigns

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty

Scott Atlas, a controversial member of the White House coronavirus task force, handed in his resignation on Monday, according to three administration officials who discussed Atlas' resignation with Axios.

Why it matters: President Trump brought in Atlas as a counterpoint to NIAID director Anthony Fauci, whose warnings about the pandemic were dismissed by the Trump administration. With Trump now fixated on election fraud conspiracy theories, Atlas' detail comes to a natural end.

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Assassination in Iran sets stage for tense final 50 days of Trump

The funeral ceremony in Tehran. Photo: Iranian Defense Ministry via Getty

Iranian leaders are weighing their response to the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, known as the father of Iran’s military nuclear program, who was given a state funeral Monday in Tehran.

The big picture: Iran has accused Israel of carrying out Friday’s attack, but senior leaders have suggested that they’ll choose patience over an immediate escalation that could play into the hands of the Israelis and the outgoing Trump administration.

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