On Sunday, The New York Times published a piece profiling a handful of recent college grads, all outfitted with varying forms of geology or engineering degrees and struggling to find a foothold in the natural gas industry. With color-matched portraits of the hopeful oil executives set alongside glamor shots of drilling machinery, the piece was presumably designed to provoke empathy for these young, well-educated twentysomethings deprived of six-figure fossil fuel salaries. Judging by the Twitter reaction, it seems to have failed gloriously. Instead, the Times piece became the weekend’s most rewarding hate-read, with readers mostly celebrating the Uber driver who reportedly asked one of the subjects on the way to an industry banquet, “Did you ever hear of a solar panel?”
But however clumsily, the piece asks a useful, even necessary question: What is going to happen when natural gas goes belly up? While the transition away from extractive sources of energy will clearly leave scores of recent grads in need of a career pivot, these are not the people most threatened by either a sudden economic crash, à la 2020, or a more gradual phaseout of natural gas. The Times gets sympathy points for having the right thought; it was just asking the wrong people.
The easiest and most obvious comparison point for the downfall of natural gas is that of coal. As coal collapsed as a major energy production model, the white-collar executives who’d filled their wallets were, like everyone else, out of work and, unlike everyone else, still quite wealthy. But neither they nor the incoming graduates with coal-related experience and research under their belts were the most exposed. While the student loans incurred for their degrees remained an unfair financial albatross to these and thousands of other graduates, they ultimately had options. For many others whose workplace shuts down, those options typically begin and end with what’s nearby.
Go to the news source: Who Really Loses When America Phases Out Natural Gas?