For African Americans and Latinos, the path to upward mobility in the oil and gas industry remains filled with both hurdles and hope.
A 2017 U.S. Labor Department analysis revealed that African-American workers held just 9 percent of the jobs in oil and gas extraction and, despite the boom in the industry over the past decade, Black Americans never comprised more than one-tenth of the nation’s oil and gas workforce.
The report also noted similar statistics for Latinos.
Mike Sommers, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, told reporters Tuesday he and others in the industry are working hard to change that.
“One of the things we know is this workforce is only going to grow,” Sommers said. “Because of the American Energy Revolution, we expect as much as 2 million new jobs will be needed by 2030 in the industry.”
That means a lot more participation by minorities and women, he said.
The industry is already focused on its workforce of the future, creating more career opportunities for women, minorities and millennials because it values diverse perspectives and contributions as key to driving continued innovation in the energy space, Sommers said.
“We’re excited and we have a long history of working in the [Black] community,” he said. “We are very excited to lead the effort going forward. The last two years we’ve sponsored an effort called the Energy Research Collaborative to make sure that we have women and minorities represented in those energy companies.”
A prior API analysis also revealed a most positive outlook for African Americans and Latinos in the oil and natural gas industry. With the right policies, 166,000 of the new oil and natural gas jobs created by 2020 could be expected to be held by African American and Latino workers, according to the analysis. That would represent 31 percent of the projected 525,000 new job opportunities.
Also, the analysis noted that by 2030, the number could jump to more than 285,000, or 35 percent of the projected 811,000 new job opportunities.
Also, more than 50 percent of all jobs created would be high-paying skilled and semi-skilled blue-collar jobs with a significant range of opportunities at the scientific/managerial level — including petroleum engineers — most of which require a college degree.
More than half of the job growth — 417,000 jobs — is expected in the Gulf region while the East region is expected to contribute nearly 140,000 job opportunities and the Rockies region nearly 116,000 job opportunities.
The West, Alaska and Central regions will combine to contribute approximately 138,000 job opportunities, according to forecasts.
Tuesday’s media conference call came as API released its latest State of American Energy report where Sommers opined that America can achieve the dual goal of growing the oil and gas industry while still cutting back emissions and operating more efficiently.
The report suggested that America has the energy to innovate, create wealth, develop solutions and achieve goals at home and abroad.
Americans are stronger, more secure and freer to choose their path because their country has abundant natural gas and oil, according to the report.
“As the world’s leading producer and refiner of natural gas and oil, the United States can look ahead to meet challenges from a position of energy strength, supported by a modern, innovative natural gas and oil industry,” Sommers said.
America’s Generation Energy creates jobs, lifts entire communities, revitalizes manufacturing, strengthens U.S. security and develops the technology of the future, according to information in the 124-page report.
The current generation also leads the charge in solving complex challenges which is why the United States leads the world in both producing natural gas and oil, and in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Sommers said.
The report pointed out that growth and decreased emissions have occurred together. U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have plunged to their lowest level in a generation, even as CO2 emissions around the globe have risen 50 percent since 1990.
The industry has invested billions in improving the environmental performance of its products, facilities and operations, the report’s authors said.
From clean natural gas for power generation, to cleaner fuels and vehicle technology for transportation, and countless other innovations, America’s Generation Energy is on the cutting edge of environmental progress, the authors wrote.
Further, the same innovations helping to drive down emissions are generating record energy production which means jobs and economic growth, API officials said.
Energy infrastructure investment alone can support a projected 1 million-plus jobs per year, a major opportunity for bipartisan achievement in the next Congress.
“It means security for the United States and our allies,” Sommers said. “U.S. energy imports are on track to reach their lowest level in decades, and our exports provide a stable source of energy for our friends around the globe.
“It means a competitive advantage for American manufacturers and budget relief for American families, who are less vulnerable to price shocks caused by overseas instability,” he said.
And it also means that the door remains wide open for African Americans and Latinos.
“The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and the National Association of Hispanic Publications (NAHP) are working with the American Petroleum Institute to increase the participation of our families and communities in the vast economic development, as well as high-wage jobs, opportunities in the U.S. gas an oil industry,” said NNPA President and CEO Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. “The 2019 State of Energy Address today by API CEO Mike Sommers was a significant step forward to which the NNPA and the NAHP will definitely respond.”