The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Unemployment Up, Drilling Jobs Down

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted December 3, 2010

There's more bad news on the economic front today. The official unemployment rate has climbed to 9.8 percent. An estimated 15 million Americans are out of work this holiday season.

The high unemployment statistics make it even more troubling that the administration has chosen to halt offshore oil and natural gas development in the eastern Gulf, the Atlantic and Pacific for at least the next seven years. As we reported yesterday, opening those areas to development could have created 57,000 high-paying jobs.

The ban on opening new offshore areas to drilling was only one of several news stories and revelations that have raised questions about policy decisions in the past few days:

  • Former Vice President Al Gore admitted that he supported ethanol purely for political reasons. "I had a certain fondness for farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president...First generation ethanol I think was a mistake," he said at a business conference in Greece.
  • Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he is streamlining the permitting process for offshore wind farms along the Atlantic coast. The farms could produce electricity for homes and businesses in a few years, but they won't address the need for liquid transportation fuels. Very few of America's 250 million vehicles plug in.
  • Sec. Salazar implied that the oil and natural gas industry doesn't need to drill in new offshore areas to produce more oil and natural gas because there are 29 million acres under leases that haven't been developed. He neglected to say that many of those areas might not contain energy deposits. "You can't produce oil and gas where oil and gas don't exist," said API President and CEO Jack Gerard. "It's a red herring to suggest somehow that there is oil and gas waiting to be developed."
  • The "permitorium" in the Gulf of Mexico is continuing to slow oil and natural gas development. Several drilling companies have "stacked" offshore rigs. Noble Corp has sent 10 rigs to the shipyard, citing a lack of drilling contracts; Transocean stacked four more of its rigs in mid-November; and a brand new Ensco Plc rig is moving from the Gulf to South American waters.

Meanwhile, Greenland has awarded seven new licenses for oil and natural gas exploration in the Baffin Bay off its western coast. A Greenland official said called the licenses "an important step towards achieving a sustainable economy for Greenland."

Apparently Greenland understands the benefits of offshore drilling to its economy. With so many Americans without jobs, it's a shame the U.S. government doesn't recognize the benefits of oil and natural gas development here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jane Van Ryan was formerly senior communications manager and new media advisor at the American Petroleum Institute (API), where she wrote blog posts and produced podcasts and videos. Before coming to API, Jane managed communications for a large science and engineering corporation, and for a top-tier research and engineering university. A few years ago, you might have seen her in your living room when she delivered the news on television. Jane officially retired from API in 2011 and now freelances as an independent communications consultant when not gardening at her farm in Virginia.