NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The Gulf of Mexico remains a vast source for energy production, but in Louisiana, the oil industry continues to feel the pain from oil prices.
"We're a big company, and we've laid off thousands and just going to work, not knowing if you're next or what, it's kind of nerve-racking," said J.J. Smith, a rig derrick hand who was heading home from offshore.
Smith was interviewed in Lafourche Parish, which has felt a lot of impact from the downturn in the oil and gas industry. He knows of workers who have been sidelined because of the low oil prices.
"Stood right beside a couple of them, like brothers to me, you know, and watch them go to the house unemployed," Smith said.
Oil prices have crept up some, but not enough to prevent job losses.
"On the fortunate side, the rigs that are currently active and drilling in the Gulf are all being serviced out of Port Fourchon by our tenants, but it's not many, and certainly not enough to have a robust service need," said Greater LaFourche Port Commission Executive Director Chett Chiasson.
Jobs around the state have been lost by the thousands. According to the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, or LOGA, 20,000 to 24,000 jobs have been lost in the state since oil prices started to drop.
"Because of the low oil prices, as we're all aware, we've seen less drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, which means there's less services that are necessary," said Chiasson.
Eric Smith, with Tulane University's Energy Institute, expects prices to eventually climb back over $50 per barrel, but that will not exactly be a return to the hey-days.
"Somewhere between $55 and $60 for the next year is the best bet anybody has been able to make, I'd like to be able to say it was higher than that," said Smith.
Smith said all of the oil in the marketplace keeps prices low.
At Port Fourchon, the rate for leases has been reduced to help oil industry companies.
"We lowered our rental rates, our basic land rental by 20 percent to try to assist our customers and have them hang on," Chiasson said.
And there are concerns that the Alabama pipeline leak could lead to more federal regulations on the industry.
"Not that regulation is all bad, but there's some overreach and some over-regulation that we're very concerned with for the industry," Chiasson said.
"I think there's a strong political drive right now to over-regulate the oil industry, generally," said Smith.
Still, they do not expect the recent Alabama pipeline leak to drive up gasoline prices here. But given what has been plaguing the oil industry for a while now, workers in Louisiana remain wary.
"I've been fortunate enough to make it through everything and I'm grateful to have a job," said Smith.