Posted March 3, 2017
If you didn’t see it already, check out Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s recent post about a visit he and wife Priscilla Chan made to an oil drilling ship in the Gulf of Mexico – part of the couple’s 50-state tour to assess the impacts of technology and globalization and meet Facebook users.
It’s pretty clear Zuckerberg was impressed by the advanced technologies that are used to develop offshore oil and natural gas …
The rig contains all the technology to drill a hole a few inches wide and 20,000 feet deep under the water, and then install a pipe for the oil to flow up for storage. To do this, the rig must keep perfectly still in the water regardless of wind and waves. They've developed a system of automated thrusters to offset any force so the rig moves at most 1-2 feet even in bad weather. It's very impressive stuff.
… and also with the continuing need by our industry for well-educated, skilled workers:
A lot of the work that is now digital used to be done manually by people. I asked if this automation meant they employed fewer people, and they said they now employee more people but those people have higher education degrees and more training. This is a common theme I've heard across industries: demand for highly educated folks is increasing, even with automation, but opportunities for folks with only a high school degree are declining.
As we’ve noted before, in the years ahead the energy industry will need a new crop of highly-skilled, educated employees to replace those who are retiring, as well as to account for growth. One report estimates direct job growth of nearly 1.3 million by 2030 in oil and natural gas, refining and petrochemicals – with African Americans and Hispanics accounting for almost 408,000 of them in 2030. Women could account for 185,000 jobs through 2030.
Another interesting dynamic relates to oil prices coming down recently because of increased supply. While that's good for us as consumers, it hits employment in these industries. With a volatile market, companies are less likely to make long term investments in expensive oil rigs. That ends up hurting jobs and affecting people in other ways. It's interesting to see how this is all connected and how stable growth is important for everyone.
The great point here is the connectivity between different sectors of a modern economy and the importance of consistent growth, particularly for our industry. For the country, finding and developing the oil and natural gas that’s involved with virtually every aspect of modern living is key to future economic growth, energy security and security overall. Kudos to the Zuckerbergs for taking the time to learn more about this aspect of it.
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.