The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

America’s Game-Changing Energy – and Jobs – Opportunity

Jack Gerard

Jack Gerard
Posted February 12, 2015

API President and CEO Jack Gerard spoke to students at Texas Southern University in Houston this week about America’s energy revolution and career opportunities in the industry. Highlights from the speech (as prepared for delivery):

Today, the United States is first in natural gas production, petroleum refining and soon to be the No. 1 producer of crude oil as early as this year, with some projecting we are already there. We have surpassed all expectations and achieved a level of domestic energy production that was unthinkable even five years ago. … North American energy production is expected to increase for many years to come and as a result (and) so are the number of jobs available within the industry.

tsuAs an example, with one change to U.S. energy policy, lifting the prohibition on crude exports, the oil and natural gas industry within five years could create up to 300,000 jobs, almost 41,000 of them right here in Texas. Already, this new era of energy abundance has not only set production and refining records, it has also added 600,000 jobs between 2009 and 2011 to the nation’s economy at a time when it was needed the most. …

(Photo courtesy Texas Southern University)

It will be up to the next generation of Americans, your generation, to expand and maintain our nation’s energy abundance and global energy leadership. It is up to my generation to make sure that you have skills, knowledge and information needed to make the most of that opportunity. 

As the national trade association representing America’s oil and natural gas industry, we understand the need to ensure that tomorrow’s workforce is as diverse as our nation. Not only is it the right thing to do, it is also the only way to sustain our nation global energy leadership over the decades to come.

Sustaining our nation’s energy renaissance requires an “all hands on deck” approach to recruitment and retention of the next generation of oil and natural gas workers.  And that means we’ll need higher levels of participation by women and minorities.

We are at an inflexion point when it comes to the oil and natural gas workforce. According to an industry survey, 71 percent of the oil workforce is 50 years of age or older. And in the next 7 to 10 years the industry will undergo a “crew change,” when roughly half of the industry’s current technical personnel are expected to retire. Bottom line, if nothing changes we simply will not have enough qualified candidates for the jobs we expect to create in the coming years.

Just as we led efforts to end the nation’s decades-long status quo of chronic energy scarcity and dependence, we are acting to lead the change we seek by engaging a broad range of stakeholders, including the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trade Union, the U.S. Department of Energy, leaders of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and African American, Latino and Asian civic, business and education leaders from across the nation. 

(An IHS Global) report, “Minority and Female Employment in the Oil & Gas and Petrochemical Industries,” estimates that over 950,000 job opportunities could be created by 2020 and nearly 1.3 million job opportunities through 2030 across the country in the oil and natural gas and petrochemicals industry.  …

Nationally, the report projects that, on our current course, almost 408,000 positions of the 1.3 million opportunities – roughly one-third of the total expected growth – will go to African American and Hispanic workers. Women are estimated to fill upwards of 185,000 of those jobs.

According to that same report by 2030, if we do nothing, the West South Central region, which is Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, is projected to have more than 508,000 job opportunities in the oil, natural gas and petrochemical industries by 2030. African Americans are expected to account for 49 percent; Hispanics 52 percent and women 41 percent of total job opportunities in our industry.  

The report also estimates that African American and Hispanic workers are projected to make up nearly 20 percent of new hires in management, business, and financial jobs through 2030. …

The report emphasizes the fact that in the decades ahead the oil, natural gas and petrochemical industries will spur the creation of hundreds of thousands of new, well-paying jobs that require people with a wide range of skill sets, training and educational achievement levels. To maintain success we need a workforce prepared for the thousands of well-paying career opportunities our industry will create with the right energy policies.

JG2The report also was a wake-up call for our nation and our industry when it comes to the difference between the current levels of educational attainment in Science Technology, Engineering and Math or STEM subjects and what will be needed in the years ahead. In the past decade or so, the United States has slipped relative to other developed nations when it comes to producing college graduates with degrees in science and engineering. …

Bottom line, we need to increase the number of STEM graduates to ensure that we have a workforce capable of continuing America’s 21st century energy renaissance and global energy leadership.

Our goal is to ensure that anyone who wants a well-paying career has that opportunity. Because that’s the only way we will seize America’s energy moment.  Ultimately we want an oil and natural gas workforce of the future that is as diverse as our nation so that we can continue to provide the energy to fuel our nation’s economy and ever-growing worldwide demand for cleaner, cheaper energy.

I ask that all of you consider the oil and natural gas industry as you start your career. And I ask that as citizens of our nation and educated members of our society you listen to the facts when it comes to energy policy.

But, no matter what career you choose, I urge you to remain a part of our nation’s energy discussion. Because just as our industry will be able to achieve even more for our nation’s economy and communities, our nation’s energy discussion needs to hear from all regions of our nation and demographic groups if we are to come to an American consensus that sustains our position as a global energy leader.  

Too often the conversation is dominated by the shrill and ill-informed whose contributions to the conversation do little to educate and much to misinform. I ask that you listen to the facts when it comes to energy policy discussion and focus on what’s important: American jobs, American energy security and American global energy leadership.

One fundamental fact that you should remember about energy is that for the foreseeable future we’ll need more of it.  Fossil fuels will continue to take the lead in providing most of the world’s energy needs well into this century. Don’t be discouraged by the short-term cyclical nature of price fluctuation, in the long-term the trend is clear, we will need more energy, specifically oil and natural gas for many years to come. …

Here’s another fact, as the oil and natural gas industry has proved for many years, increased domestic energy production does not equate to increased environmental impact. EPA recently observed that methane emissions from hydraulic fracturing have fallen by 73 percent since 2011.  And a 2014 University of Texas study found that methane emissions are 10 percent lower than what the same research team found in a study released in September 2013. And study after study shows that our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions are near 20-year lows, thanks in large part to the significant growth in the use of North American produced natural gas.

The oil and natural gas industry has proven that over the long-term it is possible to lead in energy production and safe and environmental stewardship.  From 2000 through 2012, the industry has spent more on low and zero-carbon emitting technologies than the federal government has spent, and that total is nearly as much as all other industries’ spending on these technologies combined. Since 1990, the oil and natural gas industry has invested $284 billion toward improving the environmental performance of its products, facilities and operations. 

JG3Those are the facts. Today we have to answer a very fundamental question:  Do we move forward and build upon our nation’s new era of energy abundance or do we go back to last century’s reality of energy scarcity and dependence? It is one of the most important national discussions of our time and as such should be fact-based because energy policy is too important to be merely another partisan and ill-informed talking point.

If we are to continue our nation’s current positive energy production trends and environmental gains, we must demand that those who act on our behalf, at all levels of government, implement energy policies based on current market conditions and our potential as an energy leader. Our goal is to create a new American understanding of energy – and with it a national energy policy – based on science, the free market and entrepreneurial spirit because energy is too important and fundamental to our way of life for anything less. …

What we want and what the American people deserve is energy policy that continues the trend of our nation becoming energy self-sufficient and the global energy leader.  Other nations are ready to take our place if we falter. The decisions our country makes in this area now will determine our nation’s energy future course for generations to come. Future generations – your generation – have the unique opportunity to build on this unique American moment and to continue our nation’s global energy leadership for decades to come. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jack N. Gerard is president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute (API), the national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry. He also has served as the president and CEO of trade associations representing the chemical and mining industries. Jack understands how Washington works. He spent several years working in the U.S. Senate and House, and co-founded a Washington-based government relations consulting firm. A native of Idaho, Jack also is very active in the Boy Scouts of America, a university graduate program on politics, and his church’s leadership. He and his wife are the proud parents of eight children, including twin boys adopted from Guatemala.