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By Aaren Gordon
A decline in the price of crude has refocused attention on how important oil and gas are to the state, an industry advocate said Tuesday in Houma.
Marc Ehrhardt, executive director of the Grow Louisiana Coalition, spoke today to members of the Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce during a luncheon at the Courtyard by Marriott.
Ehrhardt compared the size of Louisiana’s oilfield workforce, 300,000 people, to that of the 327,000 in the Navy.
“You can’t replace those jobs with something else,” he said.
The coalition, established in January 2014, works
“ensure the state’s oil and gas industry remains a major part of our economic and cultural heritage for years to come.”
In places like Terrebonne and Lafourche, it’s clear to most people how important the industry is, he said.
“But when you go to other parts of the state you run in to people who say, ‘Well, there’s no oil and gas facilities in our parish. Why do we need to care about it?’
“What they don’t know is they may not have a facility but they have up to thousands of people working in the industry paying taxes and living in that parish,” Ehrhardt said.
Discussing the importance of the industry to the state when crude was selling at $100 per barrel is different since the price has dropped to about half that, he said.
“Today as we look at that price being cut in half and businesses across the state making decisions about their economic futures, that discussion changes a little bit,” Ehrhardt said.
The current price of oil may encourage people to focus more on what the industry means to the state and to individual lives, he said.
Oil and gas and related companies pay about $20 billion in wages each year.
“If we were a country, that $20 billion would be more than the amount earned in 85 countries in the U.N.,” he said.
Ehrhardt said people should be concerned with competition Louisiana has in the industry that it didn’t have years ago rather than focusing on when the price of oil will rise.
“They can move where they get it from and where they bring it to and that’s what we have to pay attention to,” he said.
Louisiana ranks second in production of oil and natural gas in the nation, with Texas ranking first in both categories, Erhardt said.