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Fossil Fueled Job Growth

From The Wall Street Journal:

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.

The ironies here are richer than the shale deposits in North Dakota’s Bakken formation. While Washington has tried to force-feed renewable energy with tens of billions in special subsidies, oil and gas production has boomed thanks to private investment. And while renewable technology breakthroughs never seem to arrive, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have revolutionized oil and gas extraction—with no Energy Department loan guarantees needed.

While federally funded energy projects are going bankrupt, the fossil fuel industry sees extraordinary job growth and an increased, stable supply of oil and natural gas — all thanks to technologies developed by the private sector in pursuit of profits.

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.

The Office of Natural Resources Revenue recently noted that federal revenue from offshore bonus bids (from lease sales) in fiscal 2011 was merely $36 million—down from $9.5 billion in fiscal 2008. The Obama Administration has managed the nearly impossible feat of turning energy policy into a money loser, pouring taxpayer dollars into green-energy busts like Solyndra. The Washington Post reported in September that Mr. Obama’s $38.6 billion green loan program had created a mere 3,500 jobs over two years. He had predicted it would “save or create” 65,000.

Mr. Obama nonetheless keeps talking about “green jobs” as if repetition will conjure them. He’d do more for the economy if he dropped the ideological illusions and embraced the job-creating, wealth-producing reality of domestic fossil fuels.

Many defenders of President Obama point to the increase in fossil fuel related jobs as proof that the Obama Administration isn’t hurting the fossil fuel industry. This is incorrect. There has been significant increases in employment due to advances in technologies (hydraulic fracturing, etc.) and higher energy prices, such as the historically-high price of oil which has made more projects profitable.

However, it is clear that these gains in energy production and subsequent employment could be even greater if there weren’t efforts to stymie energy or mineral production, such as the campaigns against hydraulic fracturing, the moratorium on offshore oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico, delay on leases off the coast of Alaska, ANWR, etc.

 

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