The shale oil industry, still in it infancy, has created hundreds of thousand of jobs, and it will support 870,000 by 2015. That would make the sector one of the larger employers in the nation. It also would change the employment landscape in the energy industry, unexpectedly.
A new IHS study called “The Economic and Employment Contributions of Shale Gas in the United States” reports that:
Shale gas had grown to 27 percent of U.S. natural gas production by 2010; it is currently 34 percent and will reach 43 percent in 2015 and more than double by 2035 to 60 percent.
Those figures show what the extraordinary advance that an energy source basically unknown to the public five years ago has done to make a new segment of the economy. The shale gas contribution to U.S. GDP will be $118 billion by 2015, and the yield from production will drive down the cost of natural gas.
The predictions demonstrate how quickly new industries not forecast to be a significant part of the economy can rise and eclipse related ones. It has been broadly assumed that energy industry expansion would be driven by fossil fuel alternatives. Instead, efforts to grow the use of wind and solar energy have stalled. The hundreds of thousand of jobs that these technologies were supposed to produce have not materialized.
Ironically, it is fossil fuel production that has added to American employment. The U.S. has been increasingly dependent on energy sources from outside its borders. There appeared to be no solution to that, at least in the short term. Shale production has changed that as the technology to recovery gas economically has rapidly advanced.
IHS writes in the report that:
The report’s findings reflect the dramatic impact of shale gas production in the United States. As recently as 2007, it was believed that the country would soon need to import large volumes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) for domestic consumption. Instead, shale gas production has more than doubled the size of the discovered natural gas resource in North America — enough to satisfy more than 100 years of consumption at current rates.
New energy jobs have started to grow in a sector where they were not expected to. The central position fossil fuels play in the U.S. energy business has been unexpectedly resurrected.
Douglas A. McIntyre