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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 1 hour ago - Sports

Experts predict major boom for North American sports stadiums

Rendering of the $375 million Moody Center on the UT-Austin campus. Photo courtesy of Moody Center

Stadium and arena construction in North America will total a relatively tame $5.8 billion this year, a 12% decrease from 2021.

The big picture: What the industry lacks in construction it expects to make up for in design, with experts predicting a sports venue boom over the next half-decade, SBJ reports.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

The latest: “I can’t comment on specific pieces of intelligence. But we’ve been warning about just this kind of tactic for weeks and we’ve spoken to that publicly," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

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