May 22, 2014
hydrocarbon boom has a lesson to teach, it is this: Don’t take career advice
The “green” sector,
it turns out, isn’t much of a job creator. In the last few weeks:
Solar Power canceled
its plan to generate 5 megawatts of power for Hawaiian Electric from a new
facility in West Oahu. The company
that was to have supplied the equipment for “Kalaeloa Solar One” ceased
operations, and its assets are being sold off.
California-based ClearEdge Power, a fuel-cell manufacturer, sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy
protection. It owes
at least $100 million to creditors, and faces a class-action
lawsuit on behalf of 268 employees laid off in Connecticut.
• In Oregon, Ocean Power
its attempt to establish what The New
York Times called “the nation’s first grid-connected commercial-scale wave
• As part of a
“structural reform,” Sharp Manufacturing Company of America
the layoff of 311 of 450 employees at its solar factory in Tennessee.
• Texas biofuel maker KiOR disclosed that it
cannot restart its Mississippi plant, shuttered since January, “on an
economically viable basis at this time.” If it can’t find more financing by August,
the refiner declared, it “will not have adequate liquidity to fund our operations
and meet our obligations.”
• In its SEC
filing for the first quarter, STR Holdings, based in Connecticut, reported
declining revenue and suggested that without improved sales, the solar
manufacturer would consider “the winding down” of its business. (Last year, it laid
off 150 employees.)
But over on the “dirty” side of the energy industry, it’s nothing but blue skies.
stagnation in the 1990s, between 2003 and 2013, U.S. natural-gas production grew by 25.3 percent.
Petroleum extraction bottomed out in 2008, at 5 million barrels per day, and
“peak oil” appeared -- to the ignorant -- to be unavoidable. By 2013, production
had soared to 7.4 million barrels per day, an expansion of 48.9 percent.
More (much more) is on the way.
have needed plenty of new hires to access the fracking bounty. Jobs in the sector
have risen 30.1 percent since the
Great Recession’s June 2009 trough. (Overall U.S. employment has grown by a
pathetic 5.6 percent.) And as energy
scholar Mark Mills noted in USA TODAY,
“For every job in the oil field, we find three or four created in everything
from information services to education. In every one of the 10 states with
increased hydrocarbon production, statewide employment growth has outperformed
the nation for six years.”
for work in the fracking revolution have a surfeit of options. North Dakota’s gusher is
about to surpass the 1-million-barrels-per-day mark. One
estimate put 2014 investment in the Bakken at $15 billion, and 25,000
jobs are available. But if the cold, snowy steppe is not appealing, head to
the sizzling Eagle Ford, a crescent-shaped formation south of San Antonio. There, Lewis
Energy has hiked employment from 300 to 1,300. A BHP Billiton Petroleum
the Houston Chronicle that his
firm is planning to be in the region for the next 50 years. Heyco
Energy Group is building a liquefied-natural-gas plant to power drilling
rigs and fracking equipment. To the northwest, production in the massive Permian Basin is
surging, too. (Midland
is the hometown of George W. Bush, but don’t hold that against the place.)
In New Mexico, the next ginormous
oil-and-gas play could be underway. The Mancos
Shale, located in the northwest portion of the state, has yet to be tapped.
This year, Encana
plans to spend $350 million exploring the Mancos. The Niobrara, which
sprawls across Wyoming, Nebraska,
Kansas, and Colorado, is producing more than 300,000
barrels per day of liquids.
not bypassed the Rust Belt. The development of natural gas in the Utica Shale is boosting
businesses and jobs in Ohio.
In March, a federal analysis documented “substantial growth in terms of both
employment and wages” in Pennsylvania
from drilling in the Marcellus Shale.
by The Buffalo News found that
along “New York’s
Southern Tier, where [fracking] remains barred by a state moratorium … four
contiguous gas-rich counties lost 4,945 jobs between September 2009 and
September 2013. Meanwhile, in the four counties of Pennsylvania’s Northern Tier with the most
fracked gas wells, 7,978 jobs have been created, and nearly half … appear to be
directly related to fracking.”
America’s reality-based energy industry is
thriving. Isn’t it time to stop all the nonsense about -- and corporate-welfare
giveaways to -- “green jobs”?
D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.
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