My life relied on oil, now I’m left with no job and low hope.
Photo / pan demin / Shutterstock
Pipeline haters come across as hypocrites to me. “You just have to get a new job,” they smirk as they happily shrug their shoulders. Easy peasy. Why worry?
They chatter about these things while they wear their clothes made partially out of petrochemicals, and pull out their carbon-positive smartphone loaded with plastic. As they sit in buildings heated with methane gas from oil wells and type on their plastic keyboards made from oil, they tell me that I’m a loser for working in oil and gas.
Everything in our lives gets shipped to us using oil. There are very few electric delivery vehicles. That Amazon package was brought to you by a gas or diesel-powered vehicle. And how do you think everything made in China gets conveyed to you? By peddle-powered boats, or on a Viking ship with oars?
All the food you eat is farmed using a diesel-powered tractor or combine. The chicken, cattle, and pigs are fed food grown using diesel-powered equipment.
Vegetarians and vegans, all of your food isn’t hand-grown and carbon-neutral unless you do that yourself. It’s grown with oil.
When we travel we use up massive quantities of oil for those jets. The travel industry isn’t going electric any time soon. Your new airliner isn’t going to be powered by solar panels and rubber bands.
Modern society is still petroleum-based. If it vanished tomorrow, it would be an apocalypse. All the supermarkets would run out of food. A lot of the power grid would go down. And no one would be driving, taking the bus, or jumping on a plane. It would all grind to a halt.
What Life Was Handed to You?
I was born in a part of the world where we had lots of a natural resource everyone wanted: Oil. Big companies moved in and fostered a system to get us to work extracting it so they could make tons of money. We were aggressively recruited by massive corporations, many of them with foreign roots.
The people here were treated like any other expendable natural resource. Need to get something done? Throw more bodies at it.
All the good jobs and careers revolved around it. From construction to extraction to service industries like donut shops, we were all here to feed the machine.
Now that machine is winding down. And those companies from other countries drop our bodies in the mud and leave.
Whenever a tiny crushable thing gets in the way of a gigantic juggernaut, it gets crushed. This time, the juggernaut is the economy, and I am the crushable item. Can I get out of the way in time? Maybe.
I feel tricked and abandoned by the system. There’s a lot of anger and fear in the people getting left behind by this switch. We worked hard for our spot in life, just like everyone else. Now we are being shamed for daring to exist. Shamed by people who rely on what we produced for their benefit all of these years.
This isn’t about right or wrong. It’s about compassion. We need to be able to see each other’s position and troubles. That’s the only way to get people to change willingly.
We Have to Take Care Of The Environment
I’m totally on board with saving the Earth and conserving nature. That isn’t even a question.
Without a fully functioning ecosystem, we all die. Humanity goes too far and wrecks things all the time. We need to grow up and become a responsible race.
Humans tend to act like mold in a container of leftovers forgotten in the fridge too long. The mold spreads through the whole thing, using up all the nutrients and poisoning the entire thing. when you realize what’s happening, it’s too late. You can’t just scrape off the mold. You have to toss the whole thing.
I don’t want to be like that mold. But what are the options?
Real People Need the Income That Oil Jobs Gave Them
Maybe the pipeline really is the devil that it’s been made out to be. Fine.
Maybe we are moving away from a petroleum-based energy system. Okay.
That still leaves a big chunk of the population scrambling to find a new way to live. We will need to relocate, train for new jobs, find new jobs.
It’s hard to be happy with any political decision when it ruins your livelihood. But what makes it exceptionally hard is when people react with glee to the fact that your job is doomed and you won’t be making a wage this year.
One group of people is cheering and jeering. The other group is afraid that they will go bankrupt and lose their homes.
People will end up homeless if they can’t find a way out of this mess.
My Life is at The Mercy Of Big Oil Because I Live In an Oil Town
I have a mortgage and a car loan just like everyone else in the area.
I’m in my 50’s and living off of my savings, which should have been for retirement. Unfortunately, the last 5 years haven’t gone well. There isn’t a steady income to be had for many of us.
There’s no new work within 300 miles of my house. I will have to work from home, live on the road, or move. Fortunately, I’m capable of working from home. My wage has dropped drastically, but I can earn some money.
The majority of oilfield workers are not capable of working from home. They don’t have the skills required. So, they will need to look elsewhere for work.
What will they do?
Oil and gas jobs took a huge hit from the pandemic and oil price issues. There’s no sign of those jobs returning anytime soon, either.
But that was just the most recent blow. Things have been in a downturn since 2015, due to low oil prices. We haven’t had a break in 6 years.
We Aren’t Just Dumb Oilfield Workers
Most of the work I’ve done in this industry required training, certification tickets, and trade school. I had to earn my way to these jobs with schooling and hard work, just like any other industry.
I spent a lot of money and time on training to get the jobs I used to have. Four years as an apprentice, hundreds of hours on safety courses, and more time spent on certifications for specialized quality control.
It feels like all of that training is a waste now. There isn’t a way to easily swap these skills over into other industries. Getting that gasoline into your car took a lot of highly specialized trades, skills, and jobs. I can’t use much of that elsewhere.
What’s the Solution?
There’s no easy answer. People are losing their homes and livelihoods. They don’t have any hope of it turning around.
Boarded up businesses and for sale signs are everywhere.
Our new jobs in renewable energy sources aren’t here yet, and we won’t have the right training. I can’t sign up for an electrician apprenticeship to wire together solar panels as easily as a kid fresh out of high school can.
Do oilfield workers need to go back to university or college? Anyone with no job and small kids at home will laugh in your face. How will they feed their family while pursuing full-time education?
Have Compassion For The Displaced
Things have to change. Petroleum dependence will eventually end and that’s the way it has to be.
But in the meantime, we have yet another polarizing issue to divide us. Both sides need to work on their attitudes.
Oil and gas workers need to adapt and move on if necessary. They need to find something new to do that will make them an income.
Oil and pipeline haters need to realize that we are people too. We ended up on this side of the fence by sheer bad luck. We were born to certain areas of the world or had a certain culture around us, and that shaped our lives.
I didn’t grow up in a big city with the world as my oyster and choose this, the same way that most of you grew up in an entirely different world from me. We become what our environment makes us to a large degree. My environment didn’t include any secondary education or options like becoming a lawyer/ teacher/ white-collar person.
Conclusion- Let’s Work On Moving Forward
Everyone starts out at a different place. In order for us to have real growth as a society, we need to have empathy and compassion for each other.
So find a way to welcome these displaced petroleum workers. They’re desperate, and that makes them afraid, angry, and confrontational.
One of us might apply for a job at your business. Even though we have a ton of qualifications for some obscure oil and gas thing you don’t know much about and seem to be looking outside of our area of expertise.
Don’t look down on us with prejudice. Don’t refuse to hire us because you think “he’ll just leave as soon as something higher paying comes up.” We need to eat too.