Low Oil and Gas Prices Offer Teaching Moment

I just filled up my gas guzzling 2003 Suburban today for under $45.00! And while lower prices at the pumps certainly can result in immediate benefits to our bank accounts, what are the farther-reaching ramifications? Like all companies, energy companies are in business to make money, and when their sales go down, their profits go down. Many people in Texas, especially Houston, are affected by the current market, so this is a great opportunity to discuss with your kids and/or students (or even your neighbors) exactly how our area is impacted by all of this. Some great discussion questions include the following:

  • How are these companies dealing with these changes? Are they laying people off?
  • When people are laid off from their jobs, what happens to the economy (fewer people spending money means fewer sales and less profits for other businesses, which propagates the cycle)?
  • How many people in the Houston area are employed by energy companies? If these companies start doing more layoffs, how will that impact our city immediately and in the long term? What will it do to the job market? The housing market? What other areas of our everyday lives would this affect?
  • Research how much money some of these energy companies have given back to the community, whether in volunteer hours or actual funds donated. Many educational programs (especially STEM programs) are funded through companies in this industry. Will they continue to give as much money when there is less to give?
  • If less money is given to support educational programs, what happens to the schools and the programs they were offering? What are the consequences to the teachers and the students? Do you know anyone who is participating in a robotics program or some other STEM program? Will s/he be able to continue to be involved? If the program doesn’t completely disappear, will it cost more money? Who will provide those extra funds?
  • What does this do to students who are considering going into the energy industry? Do they decide to change tactics and focus on a more stable job option? What impact does that have on colleges and universities and their STEM programs?