Low oil prices cost investors - and the state of Louisiana

Low oil prices cost investors and the state of Louisiana

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Oil prices dragged down the Dow on Friday, and the impact of crude oil below $30 a barrel continues to be a drag on Louisiana state government and the oil and gas industry here.

"It's just a lot of oil in the market right now," said Eric Smith of Tulane's Energy Center.

Gov. John Bel Edwards is monitoring the situation's impact on the worsening state budget crisis.

"It is piling on, and obviously we would love for those prices to increase as soon as possible," he said Friday.

The rig count is down, and Don Briggs of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association thinks the situation will grow worse before it improves.

"That's not going to change anytime soon," Briggs said. "There's literally three-billion barrels of surplus stockpile. A lot of people fear we're going to be dipping down into the low twenties."

"The Louisiana economy is in a - not officially - but basically is in a recession, and oil prices are a major cause of that. It's so much - jobs are dependent upon it here," said UNO economist Walter Lane.

Gov. Edwards and industry watchers say the construction boom in some parts of the state is a bright spot as the petro-chemical industry builds new facilities for natural gas operations. It could create work opportunities for thousands who have lost jobs in the oil industry because of the stubbornly low prices.

"Between Baton Rouge and Lake Charles, particularly because of the price of natural gas being low, is actually causing much of that expansion of existing facilities, as well as new facilities to locate in Louisiana to take advantage of the availability of natural gas, which is both cheap and it's plentiful," Edwards said.

"But those are not the same jobs. People need to be retrained for them. It's not a simple switch out," Smith said.

The low oil prices are good for the economy in other ways as drivers continue to save big at the gas pump.

"If you're looking at the economy as a whole, the U.S. economy, low oil prices are good. I filled up my tank for less than $25. I hadn't done that in a long time. I used to spend $40 on it, well that leaves me $15 a week to spend on all kinds of other things," said Lane.

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