A friend of mine went home on rotation two weeks ago and came back with stories of gas that was $1.69 at the pump. This was in Missouri I think. We have been brainwashed into believing that low gas prices mean that jobs are at risk and wouldn’t you rather pay more at the pump (like three times more) to insure that a segment of this country stays employed? Those running the big fat oil companies (still collecting record breaking salaries and bonuses by the way) sit back and laugh as we fight amongst ourselves.
The big question that seems to be debated over and over is whether or not this is actually a good or bad thing. I see wives getting very upset over people expressing happiness that gas prices are lower. They post things on facebook complaining about how their friends and family keep talking about how happy they are to be paying so much less at the gas pump. The nerve!
There was an article I posted on my Facebook page about how low oil prices means losing 20,000 jobs. Some said it was unrealistic and a figure pulled out of thin air. I tend to believe it. There have already been layoffs with some of the big companies (not all North Dakota jobs though) and at any given time over the last few years ND had over 20,000 jobs to fill. Many of those jobs are on hold until they see what is going to happen over the next few months. I take those jobs into account when thinking about the total sum of lost jobs.
Regardless of why this is happening and how long it will last, I for one will not feel guilty for enjoying low gas prices. It seems like everything is going up, up, up and it’s nice to have a little relief somewhere. Lower gas prices have a boosting effect on the economy that can be seen from coast to coast. That is a fact. Some have predicted that this is the lull before the storm. That may be and unfortunately I am powerless to do anything about it other than try to have things in order for my own family. We have changed jobs before and if it happens again, then so be it. I will not look to my neighbor, friends or family to place blame.
In the Bakken there have certainly been jobs lost but don’t forget that the last handful of years has seen such a large population growth. This has brought about expansion and upgrading of a once crumbling infrastructure. New businesses have come into town and many families have moved here, investing in the community. It takes quite a bit to maintain all of this. While there are some people who would be happy if it all went away, it’s not likely to happen anytime soon. There are too many people with too much to lose. There are still plenty of jobs to be had.
It’s ironic to think that although there are plenty of jobs still available, they are not the high paying jobs everyone comes here to find. That in itself is not ironic but those “lower” paying jobs which are hard to fill in Williston and surrounding areas are good paying jobs anywhere else. So is everyone going to suddenly take those jobs until things pick back up? Some will. Many will not. Unfortunately that good paying job anywhere else is not enough to live in Williston. So the question becomes, if this drop in oil stays this way through the end of the year or maybe a little longer, what kind of effect will that have locally? How many people will be forced to leave because even though they are working and working a lot, they still cannot afford to live here.
Let’s say you take a job that pays $17.00. An hourly wage that is very respectable for most of the country. Let’s also say you are able to consistently get 60 hours a week at that job. Here is how that breaks down:
60 hours a week at 17.00/hour is $1190.00
Take out roughly 25% in taxes you are left with $890.00
Working a 60 hour week brings home about $3560.00 every month.
In a place where a two bedroom place will run you $3,000 or more, that’s not much left over.
This is why people will leave. Only a few of those 17.00 jobs will offer any kind of housing and even then it’s probably going to be either a crappy trailer or a rundown house shared with at least half a dozen other guys. You likely won’t even get your own room. In fact, this is the type of housing many guys get with those high paying jobs that work them 70, 80, 90 hours a week. If you are not from here, you are probably wondering why anyone would do that. Well, they don’t do it forever and when you are working those kind of hours it’s easy to convince yourself that you can put up with it. They do it because it’s better than paying for the overpriced housing that everyone is trying to shove down our throats. It’s better than buying a $400,000 MANUFACTURED “home” that will not be worth half in a few years, let alone be in good shape.
Those who work directly in an oil related field understand that it has ups and downs. Don’t blame your family and friends for excitement over low gas prices. It does not mean that they want you or your spouse to lose their job. That is absurd. We have lives too. It’s like getting mad at people who want to see an end to fossil fuels. We are all aware that our lives and the products that we use are are often produced in some way with oil. That argument is an old one. We get it. The point is that just because we have incorporated fossil fuels into our lives so completely, does not mean that there isn’t a better, cleaner way. That is the point. That is the hope, that someday we will collectively decide that we can and should move forward with cleaner and more responsible forms of energy