As Earth Week winds down, government watchdog Accountable.US is taking an opportunity to remind the public that few Black Americans are employed by the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) member companies, and those who are make far less than their white counterparts. It is hardly surprising Big Oil’s trade group has been so defensive, shockingly blaming “genetics” to explain why communities of color have experienced disproportionately negative health impacts thanks to pollution from oil and gas companies.  

“Whether it’s in the board room or the oil field, few Black Americans have landed jobs with the oil and gas industry. Sadly, those who have found work within the sector are significantly underpaid for their talents. Is it any wonder the American Petroleum Institute and its member companies have taken such a cavalier approach to environmental justice and polluting communities of color?” said Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US. “The serious lack of diversity in oil and gas company leadership, leaves little to no room for informed decisions that take the health and safety of marginalized communities into consideration.” 

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, fewer than 1-in-10 Black or African American workers held oil and gas industry jobs. Worse still, those with industry jobs made 23 percent less than their white counterparts according to a 2017 study from the University of Massachusetts. 

When confronted with scientific evidence linking increased health risks in communities of color to oil industry pollution, API called the data an “attack” on the industry and suggested the numbers could be explained by “genetics.” 


  • “Black And African-American Workers Last Year Held Only 9 Percent Of The Jobs In Oil…” [US News & World Report, 08/24/18
  • API’s Own Numbers Show That The Oil Industry Is Predominantly White [Politico, 06/14/20
  • The Oil Industry Pays Black Workers 23 Percent Less Than Their White Counterparts. [US News & World Report, 08/24/18
  • Multiple Studies Show That Oil Industry Pollution Disproportionately Affects The Health of Black People and Communities of Color [Reuters, 11/14/17]   
  • When Faced with Clear Scientific Evidence That the Oil Industry Hurt Communities of Color, API Callously Blamed “Genetics” [American Petroleum Institute, 11/16/17


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