Falling gas prices good for drivers, bad for La. jobs

Falling gas prices good for drivers, bad for La. jobs
(Source: Liz Koh/KPLC)
(Source: Liz Koh/KPLC)
(Source: Liz Koh/KPLC)
(Source: Liz Koh/KPLC)

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The price of crude oil is down to its lowest levels in more than six years. The upside is lower prices at the pumps for drivers but the downside is that workers in the oil and gas industry are losing their jobs.

Low gas prices are something that make some drivers smile at the pump.

"I'm about to go fill up. I'm going to fill up right now before the gas goes right back up," said a customer filling up on gas at Raceway on Highway 14.

According to AAA, the price for a regular gallon of gas in Lake Charles dropped two cents over the last week and 21 cents from a month ago. On this day, last year, drivers were paying nearly a dollar more for the same tank of gas.

"It's been a long time since we had low gas prices. I'm really enjoying [that] I don't have to spend that much to fill up my truck," said Andrea Porter, another gas customer.

While drivers are happier about lower prices, oil and gas industry workers are taking a loss.

"Companies like shell oil have had layoffs of 6,500 people or so. It seems to be most felt in the oil producers, who tend to be mostly independent companies. They are able to cut back easily as opposed to the deep water oil producers which takes years for them to slow up," said Tulane Energy Institute Associate Director Eric Smith.

Smith said the drop in prices is due to too much production and not enough demand. It's more complicated in Louisiana because of the prevalent oil and gas industry.

"Saudia Arabia, starting in November of 2014, decided that they were going to go for market share rather than to a stable price for all in the world market so they began producing flat out and that's about 10 million plus barrels a day," Smith said.

In the long run, the state will suffer because the jobs that are being lost are among the highest paid jobs in Louisiana.

"The other thing the state sees, of course, is those people set up on drilling onshore. They're paying less taxes to the state treasury," he said.

One driver explained while it may negatively impact the state and industry employees, he's happy to be a beneficiary of the situation.

"I feel bad for some of the guys that work in the oil field and then of course the taxes. You're not going to get as much revenue from the gas but it helps my pocketbook. It's nice," said Chris Ochoa.

Smith also said it shouldn't be a problem for too long because when gas prices drop, drivers tend to fill up at the pump more and the demand will eventually increase.

According to gasbuddy.com, drivers in Louisiana and Mississippi could see gas prices drop below $2 by the end of this year.

Copyright 2015 KPLC. All rights reserved.