EXCLUSIVE: Americans who work in the U.S. oil industry heavily criticized President Biden's $500 billion student loan handout, characterizing it as the latest attack on them by the administration.
Oil workers argued it was unfair for them and other working-class taxpayers to fund the handout, which would potentially benefit Americans on track to soon make hundreds of thousands of dollars. A majority of oil field workers don't have a college degree, according to the job search site Zippia.
Biden announced last week that, under the program, individuals earning less than $125,000 per year, or $250,000 jointly, are eligible to receive $10,000 in relief, and Pell Grant recipients are able to receive $20,000.
"It's one more slap in the face from this administration," Matt Coday, the president and founder of the Oil & Gas Workers Association (OGWA), told FOX Business in an interview.
"A lot of people have looked at oil and gas workers as dumb or uneducated. They are some of the brightest minds," he continued. "People, who are constantly referred to or looked at as dumb or uneducated, are now being asked to foot the bill for a bunch of people who think they're smarter than all of us who work out here in this industry."
Coday, a third-generation oil field worker in Texas, said every respondent to an internal OGWA poll opposed Biden's student loan handout, saying they shouldn't be expected to pay for the program.
The OGWA, a 501(c)(6) nonprofit trade group representing fossil fuel industry workers, was founded in 2015 in response to the Biden administration's heavy environmental regulations, which Coday said hurt energy producers and service companies while costing Americans jobs. The group works to ensure job growth in the industry as many lawmakers continue to push for a so-called green transition.
"They're trying to buy votes," said Ryan Shull, an Illinois oil worker. "They're trying to buy as many votes as they can with taxpayer dollars, and they don't really care about the working class, they don't care. They don't even care about the students. If they truly were going to help these kids, then they would change the cause of all this debt."
Shull said he attended community college because he couldn't afford a four-year university education. He paid for his education, a process technology degree, by working while taking classes.
After obtaining his degree, Shull worked in a petroleum refinery for five years before starting a business buying, cleaning up and reactivating abandoned oil wells with members of his family.
"Biden himself has never actually had a real job other than being part of government," Shull added. "What they don't understand — the real hypocrisy is they don't understand what the energy industry, as far as hydrocarbons, whether it's crude oil, natural gas, coal, whatever it is, as far as energy, they don't really know how it works."
He added that traditional fossil fuels are still crucial to maintaining Americans' quality of life and are often taken for granted. In addition to powering the vast majority of vehicles and electricity, hydrocarbons are important for asphalt, plastics and many other products, Shull said.
"They want to demonize us, but they're going to end up putting us out of business and we're going to rely on importing even more products from other countries," he continued.
Andrew De La Rosa, an 11-year Texas oil field worker who specializes in wireline operations, also ripped Biden's student loan program.
"Honestly, I think the biggest slap to the face is to the people that have already paid off their student loans. You know, what about them? Do they get any type of reimbursement?" De La Rosa told FOX Business in an interview.
"Since day one, this whole entire administration has pretty much attacked the fossil fuel industry," he said. "Every single one of them, the ones that are spitting all that stuff, they like to take their private jets and have all their private security with their internal combustion engines."
De La Rosa said he never pursued a college or university degree after graduating from high school, instead opting to work for the local school district then in a construction job before transitioning to the oil industry.
The Biden administration has aggressively pushed a green energy agenda since taking office in 2021. The administration has pushed electric vehicles, held fewer oil and gas lease sales, and vowed to ensure a completely carbon-free electric grid by 2035.
The Energy Department's annual report on industry job growth showed the fossil fuel industry shed jobs last year while clean energy fields gained jobs. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the report "shows that jobs critical to our clean energy transition are on the rise," in a statement at the time.