Whether blue or green, jobs are the issue now

Several congressional leaders are aggressively promoting "green jobs" as US President Barack H. Obama develops his New Energy for America plan. A leading oil and gas trade association executive thinks they should encourage what he calls "blue jobs" as well.

Several congressional leaders are aggressively promoting "green jobs" as US President Barack H. Obama develops his New Energy for America plan. A leading oil and gas trade association executive thinks they should encourage what he calls "blue jobs" as well.

"Roughly 5.8 million Americans are employed in and supported by the natural gas and oil industries. We call these blue jobs, taking that image from the blue flame that comes from clean-burning natural gas," said Natural Gas Supply Association President R. Skip Horvath.

"We fully support the creation of more green jobs, but we'll be wearing our 'Blue Jobs' buttons when we meet with political leaders in Washington this year. We want them to better understand how vital our industry is," he said during a US Energy Association briefing on Jan. 14.

"Solar and wind are the green energy forms everyone knows, but it takes blue to make green work. Fly-wheels, chemical batteries, compressed air and elevated water are future technologies that may someday be able to help solar and wind store energy, but the technology that's available now to back up these generation sources is natural gas," Horvath said.

160,000 more jobs

During 2008's last quarter, as the US economy contracted, oil and gas extraction firms added 16,000 jobs compared to the comparable 2007 period, Horvath said. He also cited figures from a study by ICF International for the American Petroleum Institute which indicated on Dec. 8 that opening new domestic supply areas could create 160,000 new jobs.

For every person directly employed in the oil and gas industry, another two work for companies that support the business, Horvath observed. "We are talking about approximately 6 million people employed directly or indirectly by natural gas and oil firms. We could have even more people working in our industry with the right federal policies," he said.

Gas also is a key US manufacturing component, the NGSA official added. "One third of America's natural gas is used to create everything from trash bags and pantyhose to antifreeze and detergent," he said.

When gas is green

The American Gas Association, meanwhile, applauded US Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) on Jan. 23 for his bill to provide a tax incentive to turn noxious waste into usable natural gas by increasing gas production from animal waste, landfills and renewable biomass.

"The natural gas from this process is a 'green' fuel. By taking a waste product and converting it to a valuable fuel, we create a new source of domestic supply that benefits the consumers of natural gas. AGA believes this fiscally responsible proposal should be included in the stimulus package that is being considered in Congress," AGA President David N. Parker said.

Finally, when it posted its comprehensive energy strategy on the White House website on Jan. 20, the Obama administration included prioritized construction of a gas pipeline from Alaska as part of a program to create 5 million new green jobs in the next 10 years.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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