Energy and Resource Engineering

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Employment in energy and resource engineering is expected to increase about as fast as average for all occupations through the year 2005. The employment outlook varies greatly by industry: The coal and nuclear industries are expected to experience an employment downturn, while oil, natural gas, and alternative energy industries should experience mild growth. Petroleum engineers should experience the brightest job market, while mechanical, electrical, and electronics engineers should also find ample job opportunities.

Professions Related To Energy And Resource Engineering
  • Civil Engineer

  • Marine Engineer

  • Mining Engineer

  • Chemical Engineer

  • Chemist Geologist

  • Environmental Engineer

  • Design Engineer

  • Geophysicist Paleontologist

  • Engineering Technician

  • Laboratory Technician

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  • Architectural Technicianate
While the market for their services is small, continuing technological breakthroughs and competitive pricing are starting to make these companies real players in the energy marketplace. Contracting companies responsible for installing and maintaining energy equipment also hire a large number of technicians.

Both public and private power utility companies make up the next largest pool of energy employers. Electrical, electronics, and mechanical engineers, power plant operators and distributors, and many support technicians all work in this industry. Federal, state, and local governments also hire a good number of workers in a variety of agencies. Local and regional public service agencies and public utility districts provide jobs for thousands of professionals and technicians, while the U.S. Department of Energy is the largest federal employer.

The transportation industry also employs energy and resource engineering personnel. Engineers and technicians make energy efficiency and pollution improvements in the automobile industry, while transportation planners and designers are busy working on the nation's various transportation needs.

Projected Trends And Employment Growth

The employment outlook for the energy and resource engineering field is mixed. Opportunities in the petroleum industry are not strong. There has been a downturn in oil exploration and production in the United States, because the world price of oil has been low for several years. New methods of exploration and extraction are vital to companies trying to continue domestic oil and gas production, so petroleum engineers are expected to have a bright job future. If oil prices rise, renewed domestic interest in exploration and production should occur and the general job market should expand.

Employment opportunities in energy production are expected to remain steady for the next several years. Changes in U.S. energy law several years ago have partially deregulated the power utility industry. An increase in the number of private utility companies and greater competition in the field is expected. The effects of these actions on employment are not known.

Companies and consulting firms involved in the development, application, and installation of improved energy technology should face the brightest future. This type of work will have the greatest impact in several areas:
  • Utilities: New electric generation technologies are being developed that will increase the conversion efficiency rate of raw material to usable energy from 33% to 45%. Utilities will be installing this new technology to offset the need to build new power generation plants.

  • Transportation: In accordance with regulations in the Clean Air Act, the Corporate Automotive Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard of 1975, and the Gas Guzzler Act of 1979, automobile fuel efficiency standards are supposed to rise each year. From 1974 to 1986 fuel economy almost doubled but since that time a slight decrease in fuel economy has occurred. Ac-cording to the Clean Air Act, the United States must cut its carbon monoxide emissions in half by the year 2000. Because automobiles emit the greatest percentage of carbon monoxide-a greenhouse gas-development of autos that are much more fuel efficient and spew less pollutants is necessary. This will also have an impact on the petroleum refining industry, which produces methanol as a gasoline additive.

  • Residential and Commercial Buildings: Improved building technology will save about 50 percent of energy used in older buildings and nearly 80 percent of energy used in newer buildings. Among the technological improvements are passive solar heating in windows, computer-controlled heating and cooling controls, more efficient lighting, better insulation, and condensing furnaces. The market for appraising and producing energy needs, and producing and installing this technology has grown tremendously during the past few years.

  • Renewable Energy: Energy sources such as solar, geothermal, wind power, and hydroelectric are becoming more cost competitive with conventional energy sources. Improvement in energy conversion rates and lower start-up costs has spurred the growth of these energy supplies.
Sources of Further Information

Opportunities in Energy Careers (1992). By John H. Woodbum and published by VGM Career Horizons, the NTC Publishing Group. Describes energy careers and energy issues in detail in the oil, coal, natural gas, solar, nuclear, and electric energy generation fields.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook (annual). Compiled by the United States Department of Labor and published by VGM Career Horizons, the NTC Publishing Group. Lists and describes many energy-related careers, including a detailed listing of engineering careers, using Department of Labor data and statistics.
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