Over the last four years, as Jesus Garcia’s work day in the oil field has grown longer and longer, so has his admiration for President Trump. The steady work followed a steep decline in 2015 due to the decreased demand for oil, triggering a decline in prices, and a loss of jobs.
“The oil field is booming, and it’s all because of [Trump],” said Garcia, an operation manager at Arguindegui company in Webb County. Webb County is along the Southern Border where, according to the US Census, 95.8% of citizens are Hispanic; many of whom, like Garcia, are immigrants or children of immigrants.
But Garcia now fears the recent election of Joe Biden will once again decrease demand for oil as a result of his climate change policy, and its focus on clean energy sources.
Garcia is not alone. Laredo’s Hispanic oil field workers fear the oil industry will be pummeled by clean energy initiatives and net-zero emission policies. According to Tyler Kraus, vice chairman of the Webb County Republican Party, a similar feeling resonated across Texas, as Zapata County, a 93% Hispanic community along the Southern Border, turned red during the presidential election, after being a Democratic stronghold for more than a century.
Kraus explained Hispanic people along the Southern Border have slowly drifted from the Democratic Party since the majority hold conservative beliefs and heavily rely on the oil and gas industry.
In Webb County, Trump did not win, however, he secured 37.9% of votes, an improvement of 15.1% from the 2016 presidential election, according to the Webb County Elections Administration.
“The Republican Party aligns more closely with the people of the border,” Kraus said. “People here want to keep their oil jobs. They want to provide for their families.”
The oil field industry has provided for Garcia’s family for 17 years. For this reason, Garcia, a Hispanic, remains an avid Trump supporter. Garcia credits Trump with the pre-pandemic booming oil field industry.
“America first,” quoted Garcia. “All of [Trump’s] policies focus on America first. He takes care of his own country first and makes sure everyone is taken care of here before helping everybody else.”
Throughout the campaign, Biden vowed that he would impose pollution limits for existing oil and gas operations in his first year. Biden seeks to reduce the demand for non-renewable resources by funding clean energy sources for transportation.
While Garcia recognizes that climate change policy is essential for the future of the environment, he disagrees with the “extreme measures” Democrats have proposed. To Garcia, policies like zero-emissions and pollution limits on oil corporations appear extreme. However, he supports the investment in renewable resources, as long as oil remains the main source of energy.
“A drastic change like zero-emissions is impossible,” said Garcia. “[Clean energy] costs a lot more money and ends up being worse. The oil field has come a long way from the past and has become cleaner.”
According to Haynes and Boone Lawfirm, roughly 60% of bankruptcies, from the beginning of 2020 up to May, were from American oil producers in Texas. As of now, 10.3 million US workers are employed in the oil industry, with over 1.98 million workers employed in Texas, according to the American Petroleum Industry.
Like Garcia, Julio Cesar Treviño, or as his coworkers call him J. C., has provided for his family by working in the oil field industry for eight years. J. C. did not choose the oil field industry for the money, but he saw it as an outlet to channel his “excess energy.”
“Being a young man in Laredo, you have to focus all your energy into something that will keep you from ending up incarcerated,” J. C. said. “I chose something that would exhaust me and keep me out of trouble.”
As the lead welder at one of Laredo’s oil field rigs, J. C. sees the industry as a second chance for underprivileged Hispanics along the Southern Border.
J. C. said he fell in love with the trade, and he feels pride in being one of the best welders at his job. At the end of each day, he likes to look back at the work he has done and say to himself, “Man, I’m really good at what I do.”
The oil field industry has given him respect, a more than liveable wage, but more frequently stress and heartbreak as his work days grow shorter.
J. C. remembered when he first saw the decline of the oil industry in 2015. His former co-workers, having earned $15-18 an hour, started earning minimum wage as seasonal oil rigs came to a sudden halt, resulting in a number of them losing their homes.
The oil field continues in a downward spiral. While some like Garcia and J. C. have secured jobs, according to the US Bureau of Labor, oil field workers have an unemployment rate of 19.2 percent, higher than any other industry. The US Bureau of Labor reported, the US has lost more than 137,000 oil-related jobs in 2020. According to Garcia, a greater portion of Laredo’s oil field workers only have a high school equivalent or some college, limiting their job prospects.
“Most of the people don’t have an education,” he said. “Not because they don’t want to but because of the poverty level here. They couldn’t afford it. They didn’t have a plan B.”
As the provider of his three children, two boys and a girl, and his mother, J. C. worries Biden’s climate change plan will hurt the economy along the Southern Border, and leave him unemployed.
According to J. C., Hispanics are the backbone of the oil field industry. J. C. believes diverting investments from American oil companies into renewable resources would hurt Laredo’s community – a majority Hispanic community.
“[The oil field] not only provides goods for our country, but it creates job opportunities for low-income families,” J. C. said. “It’s an opportunity to keep your family financially stable.”
The unpredictability of the oil field industry in the earlier years and the recent push towards clean energy encouraged J. C. to develop a “plan B.” J. C. began to save money in 2016, and is now the co-owner of a trucking company in Laredo. He strongly believes transportation will remain unaffected by strides towards an energy revolution.
“When the oil field shut down in 2015 we really suffered,” said J. C. “If Biden shuts down the industry, some of us will never recover.”