The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

It's About Energy

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted August 27, 2010

During the first Clinton presidential campaign, adviser James Carville reportedly placed a placard on the wall that said, "The economy, stupid." His point was clear. The key issue for voters that year was the economy.

This year the nation is facing a similar situation. The United States is struggling to overcome the worst recession since The Great Depression, and economists say the sputtering recovery is not producing new jobs. Some 15 million Americans are out of work.

Despite the dismal statistics, there are portions of the country where plenty of jobs are available for workers who want to drill for and produce oil and natural gas. Statistics show that energy-producing states have some of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.

North Dakota, for example, boasted an unemployment rate of 3.6 percent in June, which was far below the national rate of 9.5 percent. Thestate also broke its monthly oil production record by producing nearly 9.5 million barrels in June, almost double the amount produced during the same month two years ago. (H/t to Mark Perry at Carpe Diem)

North Dakota can attribute its economic success to hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, which make it possible to extract oil from the hard-rock Bakken Shale formation. Pennsylvania, which also is experiencing an energy and job boom, is using the same technologies to produce natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition says a study shows 44,000 jobs were created in Pennsylvania last year, with tens of thousands more expected in this decade. To prepare local workers for energy jobs, community colleges are offering training courses to ensure workers have the right skills. As the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports, "The drilling of one well can require almost 400 people working in almost 150 occupations," from truck drivers, to rotary drill operators, and to roustabouts.

Overall, about 9.2 million U.S. jobs are supported by the oil and natural gas industry. With the proper energy policies, tens of thousands more jobs could be created to put Americans back to work and spur economic growth.

The industry's value to the economy and job creation is one of the primary reasons why API is sponsoring rallies in September. The industry accounts for about 7.5 percent of the U.S. economy and has spent about $2 trillion in U.S. capital projects since 2000. Given the opportunity, it can do more to create jobs, produce reliable domestic energy supplies for the future, and improve U.S. energy security.

Perhaps it's time to put a new placard on the wall: "It's about energy, stupid."