Renewable Energy Tempts Workers

I saw an interesting little story today from The Glasgow Herald. I can’t find an online version, so here it is:

Renewable Energy Tempts Workers

By Mark Williamson

More than half of the skilled staff working in the oil and gas industry may be interested in switching to work for renewable energy, according to a survey which could heighten concerns about skills shortages for North Sea firms, writes Mark Williamson. In an online survey, Eden Scott found that 52% of respondents who were employed by oil and gas firms said that they had considered or were considering a move into the renewable energy sector.

The recruitment firm said almost one in five, 19%, of those respondents who were already working in the industry had come from oil and gas. The findings may concern North Sea industry leaders following repeated complaints that firms have been struggling to get enough skilled staff. Other sectors that had proved to be fertile sources for candidates for renewable energy companies included telecoms, aerospace, engineering, power generation, consultancy and nuclear.

Among people who said they were considering moving into renewable energy, some 71% said they thought the industry had good long-term prospects while 68% cited technical interest and 63% highlighted green concerns. Eden Scott said the number of jobs in renewable energy in Europe was predicted to increase from 30,000 to 200,000 across Europe in the next five years.

Interesting times ahead for the oil industry. I see the manpower shortage getting worse and worse, which is of course one of the issues leading to Peak Lite. Am I one of the 52% who has considered it? Of course. I have considered it several times.

I find LS9 appealing, but not living in California. Ditto for Tesla Motors. I found Range Fuels interesting (and I was talking to Vinod Khosla about this when my current assignment came up), but I didn’t want to live in Georgia. And I find Choren very intriguing, but don’t like the idea of living in Houston. (I also know some of the key Choren players, and they are quite a likeable bunch). I think all of the above have good prospects, yet each one had or has something that for me is a show-stopper. But I can see why people are drawn to the field.

29 thoughts on “Renewable Energy Tempts Workers”

  1. Oil falling again. Down to $92.I do not think the long-term outlook is bullish. In fact, this may be the all-time peak for a generation.
    I am worried even about a glut, which could crush conservation and alternative fuels projects for another 10 years. That happened after the 1979 oil price spike. (Remember, back then, very smart people, the Club of Rome etc, predicted we would be out of commercially recoverable oil by 2000. Instead, we went into glut for a decade).
    Demand is falling now, not rising, while we hit all-time record oil production in October. Oxy is ramping up Libya production, and Kuwait and KSA are ramping up production.
    I foresee a long-term decline in fossil oil prices, maybe for 20 years, maybe less, depends on how it plays out. But we may run into a whomping glut somewhere along the line too.
    OIl could spike somewhere on a war, of meltdown in producer state, such as KSA or Venezuela. Due to politics, not geology.

  2. Where would you consider relocating to?

    Ultimately, I plan to buy some acreage in either the Northwest (Oregon, Washington) or the Northeast (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire). I prefer NE, my wife prefers NW.

    In the short term – if only I had a crystal ball. If we are on the verge of serious economic hardship, then I want to be within a reasonable distance of extended family. We have a fair amount of land in Oklahoma, and I would like for my kids to learn to hunt, fish, grow crops and take care of a farm. The nearest big city is Dallas. Generally, I abhor big cities, but Dallas is an exception due to proximity to family. I have had a couple of propositions in Dallas, but nothing that seriously interested me.

    California? Too crowded. Earthquakes. Pollution. Expensive. Plus, I like snow.

    Regardless, I am sitting tight right now. I have my hands full enough with my current job. No time to be looking around for another one.

  3. Oil falling again. Down to $92.

    The low for the day so far is $90.33. This may be the beginning of the correction I have been expecting for a long time. And it couldn’t come at a better time. If I have to hear one more speculator tell me how smart he is because he knows oil has peaked and he is long all the way to $200, I am going to throw up.

    In fact, a guy last month told me that he made a big bet on crude going up because he had evidence that Saudi wasn’t going to be able to increase production. (I pointed out that he had misread the report he used as evidence as a complete novice would). Of course he was 100% wrong, but oil still went up. So naturally, he still felt like a genius. I suspect he is licking some losses right now. If he has been doubling up his bets, he may find that a black swan is landing in his portfolio. At least a black swan for him.

  4. oil has been due for a big correction for sometime now. i wouldnt long oil right now. but i wouldnt short it either. my recommendation is to stay out completely, may be due some limited put buyings and wait for the market to collapse and then become bargain shoppers 🙂

  5. Earthquakes

    Deaths per million residents per year are about the lowest you can get for any natural disaster.

    I think its one of those things where you grow up with them and they are no big deal, or they are “new” to you and (like “peak oil”?) your risk assessment is a little out of whack.

  6. It’s the nature of earthquakes that I don’t like. Anything that can come as a surprise in the middle of the night and drop a house on top of you while you are sleeping is not something I want to live around.

    Where I grew up, tornadoes fall into a similar category (although you generally get a few minutes of prep time for those).

  7. Just my opinion, of course, but I’d steer clear of LS9 and Tesla Motors. Range Fuels sounds pretty exciting right now. Didn’t know Choren had a Houston office – any US activities to speak of?

    Looks like CWT has been consumed by denying the odors from TDP…

  8. …earthquakes…
    … tornadoes …

    Man, I love living in New England. No mudslides or wildfires, no volcanoes/earthquakes of any consequence (within human memory), and darned few tornadoes (and never monster F4s or F5s). Hurricanes generally reach us as a pretty good rain and not much more.

    Once every few years it snows a lot, and everybody stays home for a few days… as natural disasters go, I can handle that.

  9. If we are on the verge of serious economic hardship, then I want to be within a reasonable distance of extended family.
    Oh, the subprime mess WILL cause some serious economic hardship over the next few years, but the reduced demand that goes with that should give us (somewhat) cheaper oil – depending on how well the Indian and Chinese economies can cope w/o US consumers.

    I don’t see the PO version of serious economic hardship (Mad Max, etc.) happening…

  10. “I don’t see the PO version of serious economic hardship (Mad Max, etc.) happening…”

    Routine auto accidents will likely harm more, but those are dangers that we grew up with, and again, our risk assessment is off.

  11. That reminds me Mike C, do you suppose that increased traffic deaths on icy roads exceed our very few (none since 2003) actual earthquake deaths?

    My city is actually getting excited about tsunami preparation. I suppose someone did a study and said that would be our major exposure. Even so, the last 100 years of tsunami deaths pale compared to a year on the freeway.

  12. I would have to say tempted, yes. After university I was offered a job at Cargill, running, of all things an ethanol plant. One of my friends from high school (Mechanical Engineer) still works for them.

    The problem is compensation. Many of us are nearing retirement age and would give up a lot to make a switch now. We might consider it as a second career, but that is a few years away.

    Looking through Range Fuels bios, I saw people who look a lot like me, maybe a bit older, with similar backgrounds and education.

    California and Northeast are just too expensive. My California friends can’t believe how affordable housing is in Texas.

  13. Ahh, oil, what a topic! I only have this to add: there is A LOT more to
    quality of life than cheap housing.
    My wife and I moved up near lewiston,ID in a career move 4 years ago. Looked great, perfect house out in the palouse, close to her family..heaven. I really wanted to rent, but my wife was sick of moving, so we bought a place in the country. Reality was no job market, hideous weather, insane smell of paper mill in lewiston, quantity over quality for local ‘cuisine'(they would have eaten out of troughs if they could), no culture, and oh the public schools. We hit bottom in less than seven months, sold the house, packed up the truck(during a blizzard). Moved to N. Cal.
    Sure houses are expensive, but what do I care? I rent a stunning home in yountville in the middle of napa valley for less than a third of what it would take to own it. Heck, my landlord even let me throw solar up on the roof(only one other house has solar here!!!) It is surrounded by vineyards, actual farming that is attractive! I have to skip through a vineyard to mail a letter. I can commute on a bike.
    Sure, I make this sound like a postcard, but I put more thought into this than it might seem: I live in a valley that has agricultural land, AND water enough to grow food, if it ever came to that. Population density drops off rapidly from where I am. It is a couple of hours to get up to the Trinity Alps, another hour of so to hit Tahoe. My neighbors can all read their own mail. CA has issues, but what ‘country’ with this sort of diversity wouldn’t?
    Strangely, my wife and I went through much the same mental exercise that you did, and decided to stay here. I own property on flagstaff, AZ but it would not be habitable(or comfortable!) under anywhere near the same conditions.
    For multiple reasons, I think that the US standard of living is going to drop. I can practically guarantee it. As I see it, this place will be easier to live in under a wider variety of conditions than other places I looked at. Of course, I don’t aspire to own a mcmansion…

  14. RR–
    Have you ever seen the Sierra Nevada? Snow-covered in winter-spring, and easily the most beautiful mountains in the USA. Many protected areas. Plus, we have deserts, coasts, u-name-it.
    But, it is expensive here. However, in a year or two it might make sense to buy a house here, and ride the next wave up in prices. We have some interesting financial shops in LA. You would probably hate the city.
    Do not worry too much about economic collapse. We have been through oil spikes before, and even worse — Vietnam, crime in the 1970s, horrible inflation, WWII.
    This oil spike is just a molehill. It is already subsiding.
    I am buying farmland in Thailand, though. I think it has a great future, and my wife is Thai. I think the last person in my family to work a farm must be back six generations. I sure hope my wife knows what she is doing.

  15. winelover – as I said in the other thread, I love California. Would live in the Santa Ynez valley if I could afford it. Napa is lovely, a great place to live – if you can afford it.

    I actually like Houston, never thought I would. I can ride my bike or walk to the little “downtown” area less than a mile away. We have the library, 2 bookstores, bakery, restaraunts, wine bar, music/art store and upscale shopping. We have a dessert boutique shop, grocery, several fast food restaurants. I walk to get my hair cut and can carry a NY style pizza home with me. Not too bad.

    I’m 2 hours from the Texas Hill Country and 1 hour from the beach. Southwest Airlines (45 minutes from my house) will take me pretty much anywhere else I want to go – relatively cheap – including California. I’m 45 minutes from a world class medical facility, the museum district, and other cultural events. Downtown is about 1 hour.

    I would like to be a little closer to alpine skiing though.

  16. “… not living in California. … I didn’t want to live in Georgia. … don’t like the idea of living in Houston. …”

    Picky, picky, picky, Mon Capitan, as Miss Piggy used to say.

    So you like Aberdeen? How many hours of daylight do you have now? 6?

  17. Picky, picky, picky, Mon Capitan, as Miss Piggy used to say.

    Now you see the dilemma. Picky about location, and picky about the job. If I was picky about neither and just trying to strike it rich, I would be living in London right now. But the last 2 locations with my current employer – Montana and now Scotland – have been good. It’s the one after this that concerns me.

    So you like Aberdeen? How many hours of daylight do you have now? 6?

    It’s funny you mentioned that, because for several days in a row at work I have looked out the window and said “It’s actually 3:30 out there? It’s already getting dark!” It is as you say. I drive to work in the dark, and I come home in the dark. It’s a little better than 6 hours of sunlight, but we haven’t reached the shortest days yet.

    The worst part for me is that I drive back and forth on a narrow and winding country road. Last “night”, for instance, I left work at 4, but it was raining and already pitch dark. Each car that I encountered, I braced for impact. No yellow lines in the road, and steep banks at the side. If someone swerved just a foot, there’s nowhere to go. My nerves were shot when I got home. I hate the drive back and forth. I even toyed with the idea of not getting a car, and taking a cab in every day. (No buses or trains from my house to my work).

    On the other hand, it’s great here in the summer (as long as you can black out the windows so the sun doesn’t wake you up at 4:30). It’s also hard to convince the kids they need to go to bed when it is 10 p.m. and still daylight.

    RR

  18. Just my opinion, of course, but I’d steer clear of LS9 and Tesla Motors. Range Fuels sounds pretty exciting right now. Didn’t know Choren had a Houston office – any US activities to speak of?

    LS9 is doing Holy Grail kind of stuff. Low probability of success, but the research is very cool. Tesla wasn’t a real job offer. Jeff Goodell, the guy who interviewed me for the Rolling Stone article on ethanol, said that their CEO jokingly told him he would like to hire me because of my tenacity on these ethanol issues. But I never spoke with them or exchanged any e-mails with any of them.

    Choren has moved some of their key personnel to Houston from Germany. I think they are moving research to Houston, maybe to be closer to Shell in Houston (Shell has some a stake in Choren). I still maintain contact with some of the Choren “guys” (one is a “gal”). I think they would be fun to work with, but I couldn’t bear the idea of Houston. The key question for Choren is “Are they ahead of their time?” Biomass gasification is going to be the most expensive route (over natural gas and coal to liquids) and if the government doesn’t provide some incentives to go down the biomass route, economics will push companies down the other two routes first. Long-term, I think biomass gasification is the way to go. Can it make it in the short-term?

  19. “The worst part for me is that I drive back and forth on a narrow and winding country road.”

    I’m probably the only one that finds this part of the thread the most interesting, but what I’ve come to in the last year is viewing “peak oil” as risk assessment.

    And I’m afraid as an example of how humans can go wrong in risk assessment.

    … I still need to order this book. I wrote the author, and know that peak oil didn’t make the cut for the book (wasn’t considered), but it apparently talks about risk management gone wrong.

  20. The key question for Choren is “Are they ahead of their time?” Biomass gasification is going to be the most expensive route (over natural gas and coal to liquids) and if the government doesn’t provide some incentives to go down the biomass route, economics will push companies down the other two routes first. Long-term, I think biomass gasification is the way to go. Can it make it in the short-term?
    Range Fuels seem to think so. Are they getting any significant benefit from Uncle Sam’s preoccupation with ethanol? Is syngas->ethanol (actually mixed alcohols) more efficient than syngas->diesel (as Range Fuels claim)? Those seem to be the only differences with Choren.

    I would think that if you put a biomass gasification plant next to a free source of waste paper (i.e. a landfill) most of the economics turn in your favor.

    But yeah, it would be great if (when?) Uncle Sam let go of the FOOD->FUEL idea and started encouraging the viable options.

  21. Odo –

    traffic deaths on icy roads

    See, I don’t think that’s a good analogy, because I can do something about it: by moving to a place where I don’t need a car, and taking a job that’s accessible by public transport, I can mitigate that risk (though not eliminate it – I do bike to work throughout the year). But tornadoes and earthquakes – man, if you’re livin’ in the crosshairs, not a lot you can do about that.

    I do take your general point – that humans are bad at (subjective) risk assessment – and agree with you, but…

    Even so, the last 100 years of tsunami deaths pale compared to a year on the freeway.

    are you including the 26 Dec. 2004 Southeast Asian catastrophe when you say that?

  22. I was using US stats for US readers, but let’s look at that. The Asian tsunami killed 225,000 (wikipedia). That’s about twice the yearly rate of accidental deaths in the US (112,012 per year, from this).

    Those 112,012 are the “invisible” deaths that occur around us, per Robert’s more recent post.

    (My gut would say that it would take a very specific earthquake, a lifting or dropping of the Channel Islands to direct a good tsunami to me.)

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