The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

For a Bigger (Jobs) Boom

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted November 28, 2011

In case you missed it over the weekend, a must-read Wall Street Journal editorial on oil and natural gas job creation [subscription required]:

"The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported recently that the U.S. jobless rate remains a dreadful 9%. But look more closely at the data and you can see which industries are bucking the jobless trend. One is oil and gas production, which now employs some 440,000 workers, an 80% increase, or 200,000 more jobs, since 2003. Oil and gas jobs account for more than one in five of all net new private jobs in that period."

As the Journal notes later on, there's been lots of arguing about the oil and gas industry's job-generating ability since September, when the Wood Mackenzie consulting firm released a report saying industry activity could create a million new jobs by 2018, given the right energy policies.

Yet, BLS stats show industry has a demonstrated ability on jobs - 20 percent of "all net new private jobs" since 2003 - and much of that against the prevailing economic winds. A good deal of that is from the production of natural gas and oil from shale through hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling techniques. More from Journal:

"The oil and gas rush has led to a jobs boom. North Dakota has the nation's lowest jobless rate, at 3.5%, and the state now has some 200 rigs pumping 440,000 barrels of oil a day, four times the amount in 2006. The state reports more than 16,000 current job openings, and places like Williston have become meccas for workers seeking jobs that often pay more than $100,000 a year.

Or take production in Pennsylvania's Marcellus shale formation, which the state Department of Labor and Industry says created 18,000 new jobs in the first half of 2011. Some 214,000 jobs are now tied to a natural gas industry that barely existed in the Keystone State a decade ago. Energy firms are also rushing to develop the Utica shale in eastern Ohio, and they are expanding operations in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, among other places."

Those are real jobs, real paychecks, real opportunities for American workers. No legislation was required to create those jobs, no appropriation was needed. This is an industry on the move, putting people to work - the same dynamic that let oil and gas contribute $476 billion to the economy in 2010. Even better: It's an industry willing to do more. The Journal:

"In any case the beauty of the oil and gas boom is that multipliers aren't needed to predict job growth. It's happening right before our eyes. And it stands to reason that if the Obama Administration dropped its hostility to oil and gas energy, even more jobs would be created as the industry invested to exploit other areas with new technology and production methods. Yet earlier this month the Interior Department released a new five-year plan that puts most of the Outer Continental Shelf off-limits for oil drilling. And the Administration has delayed for at least another year the Keystone XL pipeline that is shovel-ready to create 20,000 new direct, pipeline-related jobs."

Think about it: If the oil and natural gas industry can create tens of thousands of jobs in this economy, given current levels of access to resources, what could it do with more access? What if a set of pro-development policies were adopted that significantly expanded opportunities to tap American energy resources?

Maybe this: The oil and natural gas industry in a catalytic role, spurring national economic resurgence - and with it jobs, energy security and greater revenues to government.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.