While attending the Offshore Technology Conference earlier this week (on sponsorship by the American Petroleum Institute), one truth became very apparent: opening up the outer continental shelf to oil and gas exploration would create a lot of jobs.
Right now, our government is spending hundreds of billions in an effort to revitalize the economy, but President Obama has extended the â€œpublic comment periodâ€ on OCS exploration/drilling until later this year, preventing any movement forward in that sector. The message is pretty clear: all jobs are not equal. Ideologically, this might make sense, but from a practical standpoint â€“ with our need for jobs and for future energy sources â€“ shouldnâ€™t we proceed with exploration sooner rather than later?
According to the API, the industry employs 1.8 million Americans directly and supports another 4 million jobs in ancillary industries. Furthermore, wages for exploration and production jobs are double the national average. Better yet, creating more of these jobs would cost the nation nothing â€“ in fact,ICF International estimated for the API that currently untapped offshore oil and gas resources could generate $1.3 trillion in government revenue over the life of those resources.
Even if the numbers above are overstated, itâ€™s surprising how little attention offshore exploration and drilling has received during discussions on how to improve the economy. For various reasons, some of our leaders have a reflexive dislike of the oil and gas industry. But there is no reason why we canâ€™t pump money and efforts into renewable energy and â€œgreenâ€ jobs even while we create jobs in oil and gas (and help generate a bit more energy security in the process).
In my mind, offshore exploration and drilling should be one prong in our multi-pronged approach to both job creation and energy policy.