Offshore Exploration/Drilling Would Create Jobs

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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 “public comment period” 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 – with our need for jobs and for future energy sources – shouldn’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 – 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, it’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 can’t pump money and efforts into renewable energy and “green” 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.