The Problem With Shale Oil

Now, you might be aware of images like this one to demonstrate the process, but they are misleading. How? Because there is never just one pipe. In reality, there would be maybe dozens of pipes jutting out in all directions. This was beautiful for the Oklahoma economy because someone had to build all that, truck all that, and it was really labor intensive. That meant we had a lot of taxes coming from the oil industry beyond just the proceeds of the sale of oil. But then shale did what competitive industries do… they got smarter. They started drilling down to one central location, which served as a hub for all the pipes that would be built. Add in that you can now drill far longer from a central access point and few things happen.

By becoming so much more efficient in processes, as in massively, massively efficient, it results in two things: the United States is currently experiencing an energy boom, but… the market for all industries supporting the actual drilling up the oil collapsed. It’s weird because we are technically in the middle of this boom in oil’s production, but the actual thing that was taxed, income on all the industries that supported the oil, is withering as we’re seeing those jobs disappear due to simple better business practices.

That is what was important to Oklahoma. Our people are the ones who did the work and we did the manufacturing. That was great for us. When there were fewer jobs being created by the shale industry that sent a ripple throughout the Oklahoma economy. Not just a ripple, but a tidal wave.

I say this a former Oklahoma teacher. Yes former, I left specifically because I had a better opportunity as a writer than as a teacher in Oklahoma. My wife is still a teacher, so the crisis hits us hard. But speaking rationally, I can’t blame my principal or the school board for problems that are happening a mile under our feet and all over the state. I want to be angry, but there is just no one to blame on this one. Well, maybe someone.

Damn you scientists and engineers!


This is part of a series on Education in Oklahoma:

Start at the Beginning


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