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McGowan Q&A: North Carolina’s Energy Opportunities

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted June 8, 2015

David McGowan was named executive director of the North Carolina Petroleum Council in 2013. Previously, McGowan served as director of regulatory affairs for the North Carolina Association of Realtors. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina. Below, he talks with Energy Tomorrow about the potential for energy development in North Carolina, as well as the challenges for industry in his state. 

Q: What do North Carolinians think about the state’s onshore and offshore energy potential? Is it something people are aware of, and what do you believe they want most from industry as it develops that energy?

mcgowanMcGowan: An overwhelming bipartisan majority of North Carolinians support more domestic exploration and production for oil and natural gas resources, both onshore and offshore. According to a Harris poll in January, 91 percent of the state’s citizens believe that we should produce more energy here at home to strengthen our energy security. Furthermore, 90 percent believe that increased oil and natural gas production will lead to more jobs here in the state. North Carolinians also understand that our country and our state need oil and gas resources for our economy to grow. They understand that more domestic production increases global supplies, putting downward pressure on costs and benefiting consumers.

Finally, most people in the state understand that energy production and environmental stewardship are not mutually exclusive. They know that we can safely and responsibly develop our natural resources, create jobs and stimulate the economy – all the while ensuring that the health of our citizens and environment are protected.

Q: What are the keys to building a strong partnership between industry and North Carolinians? What are the most important challenges facing the oil and natural gas industry in North Carolina, and describe the state petroleum council’s role in meeting those challenges. 

McGowan: North Carolina is in a somewhat unique position with regard to the oil and natural gas industry in that we don’t currently have a significant industry presence in the state. That presents some challenges when trying to familiarize people with the tremendous economic benefits associated with a robust oil and natural gas industry.

As indicated by the January Harris poll, the vast majority of North Carolinians understand positive impacts like energy security, job creation and lower costs to consumers, which a vibrant energy industry could have on the state. Unfortunately, all too often here in North Carolina, some industry opponents use fear, emotion and misinformation to scare residents and distract attention from the real issues that matter.

The North Carolina Petroleum Council, working with citizens and organizations that want to have respectful and rational discussions of issues important to the state, is leading a comprehensive effort to ensure that misinformation cloaked in fear doesn’t block a fact-based conversation about oil and natural gas development.

Q: What opportunities exist for businesses and North Carolina’s economic future because of potential energy development? 

McGowan: North Carolina has an unprecedented opportunity to generate economic growth, create jobs and provide for significant needs across the state by safely and responsibly developing its onshore and offshore oil and natural gas resources.

A 2013 study conducted by Quest Offshore Resources estimated that offshore development could create 55,000 jobs, $4 billion per year in Gross State Product contributions and nearly $600 million per year in manufacturing activity by the 2035 if the federal government chooses policies that encourage exploration and production of our offshore resources.

The state is already experiencing profound economic impacts from the oil and natural gas sector. According to a 2013 study by PwC, our industry already supports 146,100 direct, indirect and induced jobs here in North Carolina and contributes nearly 3 percent of the state GSP, amounting to $12.5 billion in annual economic impact. More than 130 companies located in the state provide products or services to the industry. And again, all of these positive impacts are occurring without any exploration or production happening at this time. Imagine the potential once North Carolina is able to start producing our own oil and natural gas resources.

Q: Talk about the opportunities for women and minorities in the energy industry in North Carolina.

McGowan: We are blessed here in North Carolina with a diverse population and an outstanding education system that includes a number of historically black colleges and universities and women’s schools, as well as a community college system that does an incredible job preparing students for future job opportunities.

As the current workforce in oil and natural gas ages and new frontiers, like North Carolina, are considered for energy development, having this strong educational base as the foundation from which employers can pull workers is critical. A report prepared by IHS Global indicates that over 800,000 job opportunities will be created in the oil and natural gas industry between 2012 and 2030, with many of those going to women or minorities. North Carolina students and residents are well prepared to take advantage of these opportunities, many of which far exceed the current state average salary range of $43,039, because of the outstanding educational programs we offer in the state.

Q: What does having state’s like North Carolina join in production mean for the U.S. energy revolution?

McGowan: Perhaps most importantly, it means energy security for our country and our state. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, North Carolina uses about four times as much energy as it produces. It is past time for our state to contribute to national and global energy production.

Beyond energy security, production of home-grown energy here in North Carolina also could help lower costs for consumers – both in direct energy costs and in the costs of daily goods and services. For instance, North Carolinians have already seen dramatic reductions in their electricity bills, in their natural gas bills and at the gasoline station. Energy production in other areas of the country is saving North Carolina consumers on average about $2,500 per year. Those savings go directly into the consumer’s pocket – to be used on other purchases or investments that stimulate the economy.

Finally, the environmental benefits from clean-burning natural gas should not be understated. Ozone levels in the three major metro areas of the state are consistently declining because more natural gas is being used to fuel our power plants. In fact, the Triad and Triangle areas of the state were recently re-designated to “attainment” with the 2008 EPA ozone standard and the Charlotte metro area will soon follow suit – meaning cleaner air for all North Carolinians to breathe.


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.