Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Houston energy salaries vs. tech and others

This week's guest post is from Oscar Slotboom:
Tuesday the Wall Street Journal published an interactive chart with the most recent median salary data as reported by publicly-traded U.S. companies.

It's a fascinating interactive tool, but most interesting is the amazingly high pay of the energy industry. Below is a screenshot where I added annotations of many energy firms with headquarters or large operations in Houston (click to enlarge)

The median salary of the energy industry is $115,700, vastly higher than the #2 industry technology, which comes in at $75,000. However, there is a strange cluster of very low paid jobs on the technology plot, maybe offshore jobs, which pushes the technology median lower. Nevertheless, the energy scatter is clearly well above the technology scatter and the finance scatter.

Of course, Houston is an energy industry hub and we have a high percentage of those high-paying energy jobs, with many large Houston employers clustering at the high end of the chart. Houston has achieved the holy grail of many employers with high pay, an affordable cost of living, and very large total employment at the high-paying firms with ExxonMobil, Anadarko, ConocoPhillips, Phillips 66, EOG Resources and Chevron.

Below is a tabular list of selected large firms in Houston and outside Houston

HoustonOutside Houston
Carrizo Oil & Gas $191,131 Facebook SV $240,430
Phillips 66 $170,988 Broadcom SV $202,915
Exxon Mobil $161,562 Alphabet (Google) SV $197,274
Anadarko $160,251 Netflix SV $183,304
ConocoPhillips $158,943 Microsoft Seattle $167,689
EOG Resources $146,016 Twitter SF $161,860
Chevron $137,849 Goldman Sachs NYC $135,165

Other energy firms with large blue-collar field workforces and large professional staff in Houston also come in above the tech average, with Halliburton at $79,636 and Schlumberger at $75,134.

Looking at the charts, we can see that only the most upper-tier tech firms equal or exceed Houston's large energy employers, and finance firms in the high-paying range appear to be smaller boutique firms which have lower numbers of employees compared to big firms.

While this is an excellent position for Houston, there is also cause for concern since Houston's high-paying cluster is entirely oil and gas, and therefore vulnerable to advancing green technology and government action. The Green New Deal promoted by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez seeks to make electricity generation 100% zero-emission and "[overhaul] transportation systems in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible" (ref). This would destroy demand for fossil fuel energy in the U.S. and do very serious damage to the existing energy industry and Houston's high-paying job base. "New energy" jobs in wind, solar and energy storage really don't offer much hope. The wind power industry is already well-established and is mostly foreign with only one U.S. player, General Electric. Solar panel manufacturing is totally dominated by China, and China is positioning to totally dominate battery manufacturing.

So, this all leads to the conclusion that, from the economic and jobs perspective, it is in Houston's best interest for the oil and gas industry to have the longest possible remaining longevity. Maybe everyone with a stake in Houston's high-paying energy industry (companies, shareholders, State of Texas) should be more actively looking at ways for oil and gas to exist in a future with environmentalists holding more political power and battery prices dropping. For example, more participation in research for carbon capture technology.

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At 8:54 AM, March 07, 2019, Anonymous Mike said...

How much fossil fuel energy can realistically be replaced by renewables? The most obvious threat to the oil industry is electric cars, but if all cars became electric, demand for electricity would skyrocket and you would need natural gas to meet the need. So natural gas becomes in effect the new gasoline, unless you can somehow supply all that demand with renewables. That both of these things could happen (electric cars replacing gas-driven cars and renewables supplying the drastically increased demand for electricity) does not seem likely anytime soon.

The incredible thing about petroleum is its energy density (energy per volume), coupled with its specific energy (energy per weight), both of which are an order of magnitude higher than the best lithium batteries. We have used something like a trillion barrels of oil going back to the 1850's, and there are an estimated five trillion barrels remaining in the earth, 1.5 trillion of which are obtainable with present technology. So you have enough energy for a hundred years minimum, probably a few hundred years, that is just sitting there. I don't see this not getting used.

At 9:38 AM, March 07, 2019, Blogger George Rogers said...

Not much. Because the people who want so called renewables are against energy.

At 9:42 AM, March 07, 2019, Blogger George Rogers said...

Also you get a McMansion for your paycheck in Houston. In SV not so much.

At 9:44 AM, March 07, 2019, Blogger George Rogers said...

Also Texas would leave the union if the environmental wackos take too much power.


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