With all of this hubbub about the potential loss of oil and gas jobs in Louisiana due to new Federal policy, it makes sense to dig a bit deeper into the actual job numbers. The Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association (LMOGA) claims 48,000 jobs will be lost, yet the most recent report by the Louisiana Workforce Commission claims only 1.5% of Louisiana’s jobs are in oil and gas. So what gives??
A good friend runs a large commercial food business in Houma, offshore oil and gas is the majority of his customer base. Another friend is a welder with the Iron Workers Union, often working on power plants. A large percentage of Louisianans employed by the Transportation industry may transport goods for the oil and gas industry. However, these jobs aren’t directly tied to the extraction of oil and gas. These jobs support oil and gas and are supported by it. Yet the number Louisianans actually employed in the extraction of oil and gas is much smaller. That number represents the number of Louisianans that need to be retrained. Retraining 1.5% of the employed workforce is entirely manageable and should be the focus of the conversation.
By retraining the folks explicitly in the extraction of oil and gas, in offshore wind for example, we can retain our offshore industry. All of the supporting jobs mentioned above will continue. The commercial food industry that serves the offshore oil industry will now continue but will serve the offshore wind industry, the welders will build and maintain wind turbines. This is exactly what we mean by ‘transition’.
But here’s the thing, we have to be intentional about it. We have to transition our offshore industry to something more sustainable so that it can continue to support our economy. The fact that the oil and gas industry is hurting right now is just a reflection of market changes both here and abroad. People are relying less and less on conventional energy sources for a number of reasons and that will likely continue. Propping up the industry with subsidies and tax breaks will only be a temporary fix until it’s too late to save the supporting jobs.