That’s the question Sabrina Burns, a petroleum engineering student got from an Uber driver in 2018. She and some fellow students were headed to a petroleum industry banquet, and at the time it seemed a little silly. While many younger people questioned the wisdom of going into the oil industry, conventional wisdom held that the oil industry is a great career.
While students in other majors and other people she knew questioned the wisdom of being an oil major, her parents persuaded her to stick with the oil industry. Her father, who worked as a helicopter pilot, met a lot of successful women working as engineers on offshore oil rigs. On top of that, older generations probably have a harder time imagining a world in which the oil industry isn’t stable, lucrative, and essential to everyone’s lives.
2020 threw these older generations and any younger believers a curveball, though. “We got a slap in the face, an entirely unforeseen situation that rocked our entire mind-set,” said Ms. Burns when asked about her prospects by Clifford Krauss at The New York Times. “I have applied for every oil and gas position I’ve seen, like all my classmates, and nothing really has turned up. I’m discouraged.”
What was once seemingly invincible was now stumbling and couldn’t be counted on.
The biggest blow to graduating oil students was the sudden drop in oil demand due to the pandemic. Oil products like gasoline and jet fuel weren’t needed nearly as much because people worked from home, many businesses were closed, and travel was avoided. With all of this lost demand despite ample supplies, prices tanked.
With such low demand and low prices, the industry took a big hit. Over 100,000 people were laid off. Workers weren’t needed in the field to pump oil that wasn’t needed, and refineries were closed. Some oil companies even declared bankruptcy.
This stands in stark contrast to the better years, when these students started their college careers. The oil industry and the faculties of colleges felt they could promise great careers, with lots of job security and a good income. Under Donald Trump, shale drilling and “fracking” took off, and the United States became the world’s largest producer of oil. There had been booms and busts in the industry in the past, but those seemed to affect less educated field workers, and not people with engineering or geology degrees.
With these prospects gone, and future climate change issues seeming likely to hurt the industry even after the pandemic is over, oil students are looking at other options going forward. Sabrina Burns told The New York Times that she’s looking to intern in a related but different field, and that she may need to go back to school for a graduate degree in Environmental Science to have a better career. She is even considering moving in with family to make ends meet while recharting a new course for her career.
In the same article, Krauss goes on to interview a number of other students in the industry. Their stories are all pretty similar. Some expect the industry to bounce back, and are biding their time. Others are looking to take on a graduate degree while waiting, but are hedging their bets by majoring in something else for their master’s degrees.
One student actually landed a job, but the company is looking at diversifying to avoid future exposure to what could be a failing industry in future years. He is glad to have found a job, but worries that his education and skills he’s building won’t transfer well to other parts of the energy economy.
Some Things We Can Learn Here
Readers of CleanTechnica are probably having an “I told you so” moment reading this. People following the energy industry could see that renewables, battery storage, and other technologies aren’t competing with oil just yet, but have a much brighter future than oil, which isn’t growing. Oil is still big, though, and has a lot of inertia, so it’s not going away now or even in the next four years under Biden and then likely Harris.
What many (even among us) didn’t foresee was how oil’s newfound weakness would leave it more vulnerable to crises, like the one we currently face with COVID-19. Oil is weakening and growth has less potential than ever, but at the same time it wasn’t shrinking. A sudden jolt in demand for gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel hit them hard, though.
Few people fully avoided the impacts of the tsunami of COVID, but electricity is a lot more diversified. In my home, we use electricity for heating, cooling, and most of our driving. We use it for lighting, entertainment, cooking, and security. The cats and dog even have toys powered by electricity. When we turn on the tap, electric pumps somewhere else in town provide the pressure. LED street lamps light the street in front of our home.
Sure, I drive a lot less now not taking the kids to school, but our overall power bill didn’t take a huge drop.
On the other hand, our use of gasoline took a HUGE hit. In the last nine months, we’ve spent far less than $200 on the stuff. The occasional trip to the next town makes our Nissan LEAF struggle for range, and we’ve driven there on gasoline power only twice. The prior year, we probably did this dozens of times. Trips to see family, where we need to pile the whole family into the family SUV, are also a lot more rare. A tank of gas used to last one to two months in those vehicles, but now last three to four, if not more.
We don’t use gasoline for anything else, so oil companies are taking a much bigger hit than companies involved in electricity generation, whether they’re renewable or fossil fuel-powered. Even when fossil fuels are used to generate, very few power stations run on oil. Natural gas is far more common, and comes from a related but different industry than oil.
Another important lesson we can find here is that it’s wise to question the prevailing narrative. Yes, oil has been very strong in the past, but that doesn’t mean it will necessarily be strong in the future. No industry is a sure bet, but this was an area where generational bias caused parents to mislead their children into a bad career move.
This is no trivial thing. Most of the students will go on to find another career, and some will eventually succeed in oil as the pandemic ends. However, they’ll still have tens of thousands of dollars of debt that they wouldn’t have had, and a harder time servicing that debt than they would have had if their parents had been more forward looking.
Oil is Not Invincible
On the other hand, there’s a silver lining. Seeing oil stumble shows us that it’s not invincible. As Ivan Vanko in Iron Man 2 says, “If you could make God bleed, people would cease to believe in Him. There will be blood in the water, the sharks will come. All I have to do is sit back and watch as the world consumes you.”
If you don’t remember the film, Iron Man (a character partially modeled after Elon Musk) is at the top of the world and the top of his game, giving global leaders security with his unique Iron Man suit. He seemed invincible until someone with his father’s arc reactor technology attacks him, only narrowly losing the fight. Once he didn’t seem invincible, a variety of enemies emerged, including business competitors and government officials who wanted to take him down when he seemed weak.
A similar moment is happening with oil. It seemed like a god, but now it’s a god that failed. Its blood is in the water, and the sharks are definitely circling. It might sound too dramatic to use the imagery of sharks here, but imagine being a student $50,000 in debt with no job prospects. The fear is quite real for some.
Don’t assume that oil is some Goliath that can’t be beat. All it took was a rock in just the right place (COVID-19) to bring him down.
Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to explore the Southwest US with her partner, kids, and animals. Follow her on Twitter for her latest articles and other random things: https://twitter.com/JenniferSensiba
Do you think I’ve been helpful in your understanding of Tesla, clean energy, etc? Feel free to use my Tesla referral code to get yourself (and me) some small perks and discounts on their cars and solar products. https://www.tesla.com/referral/jennifer90562
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the university sector under greater scrutiny. In some cases, this has prompted new conversations about the purpose of higher education. These have included the extent to which universities are upholding their commitment to public service, and whether the current institutional adjustments in universities will change the way higher education is delivered.
But what do students themselves think about what university is for? In 2017-18, my colleagues and I asked 295 students across six European countries – Denmark, England, Germany, Ireland, Poland and Spain – about what they believed to be the purpose of university study. Their responses shed light on the possible future of higher education in Europe.
This research, which forms part of the Eurostudents project, investigates how undergraduate students understand the purpose of higher education. We found that for many students, it serves three particular functions: to gain decent employment, to achieve personal growth, and to contribute to improvement in society.
But there were interesting variations in students’ views, which often corresponded to how much they had to pay for their studies.
The career ladder
The most common purpose of higher education that students spoke about was to prepare themselves for the labour market. Some students stated that a degree was essential to avoid having to take up a low-skilled job. However, many students believed that an undergraduate degree was insufficient for highly skilled or professional employment.
Here, we see a shift from a conception of higher education as an investment to help move up a social class to viewing it as insurance against downward social mobility.
As a student in England said:
I don’t really think there’s much of an option. If you want to get a decent job these days, you’ve got to go to university because people won’t look at you if you haven’t been.
There were some differences across countries. Emphasis on the purpose of university education being preparation for the job market was strongest in the three countries in our sample where students had to make greater personal financial contributions: England, Ireland and Spain.
The students in our study also discussed ideas of personal growth and enrichment. This was the case in all six countries, including in England where the higher education sector is highly marketised. This means it is set up as a competitive market, where students pay tuition fees and are protected by consumer rights legislation, while metrics such as league tables encourage competition among institutions.
Some students emphasised how they were “growing” through the knowledge they were gaining. Others placed more emphasis on aspects of wider learning that they had experienced since embarking upon their degree. This included interacting with a more diverse group of people than they had previously, and having to be more independent.
Students in Denmark, Germany and Poland talked about this kind of growth – which happened outside formal classes – more frequently than students in the other three nations. Notably, in these countries, students make less of a personal financial contribution to the cost of their university study. When this purpose was mentioned by English students, it was associated particularly with learning how to live independently.
Students in all six countries talked about how higher education could improve society. This was brought up most frequently in Denmark, Germany and Poland – where students receive greater support from the government and make less of a personal financial investment to their university education than in the other countries in our sample.
Students tended to talk about their contribution to society by attending university in one of three ways: by contributing to a more enlightened society, by creating a more critical and reflective society, and by helping their country to be viewed more competitively worldwide.
A Polish student said:
[University education is critical to] shaping a responsible and wise society … one which is not blind, which will do as it is told.
Meanwhile, a Danish student commented:
We’re such a small country, we have to do well … we have to do better because there are so many people around the world … we have to work even harder to compete with them.
Only Danish and Irish students spoke about national competitiveness in this way. This is likely to be linked to specific geo-political and economic factors, particularly the relatively small size of both nations when compared to some of their European neighbours and the structure of their labour markets.
It is unsurprising to find that many students across Europe believe that a key purpose of university study is to equip them for the job market, as this is often the common message given by governments.
Nevertheless, as shown here, many students have broader views. They see the value of higher education in promoting democratic and critical engagement, while also furthering collective, rather than solely individual, ends.
The national variation we found also suggests that the enduring differences in funding across the continent may affect on how higher education is understood by students.
Ellie Bothwell on how Turkish refugee academics ‘facing rights violations abroad’ in the Times Higher Education reports that a Study finds dismissed supporters of Academics for Peace struggling to gain residence permits, find work and travel. Here is the story of
Turkish refugee academics ‘facing rights violations abroad’
5 January 2021
Turkish scholars who have had to leave the country are still subject to significant human rights violations from both the regime of their home nation and their new environment, according to a report.
The study from the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) is based on interviews with nine Turkish academics who are now living in Germany and France after signing a 2016 Academics for Peace petition that criticised military action in Kurdish regions of the country. They subsequently lost their jobs and were banned from working in the public sector in Turkey.
The research, Violations of Rights Experienced by Dismissed Academics Living Abroad, finds that these scholars are still suffering almost five years later and that the human rights violations they had suffered in Turkey have “acquired a cross-border dimension”.
In some cases, consulates refused to issue academics with new passports because of their dismissal, and they were then unable to apply for a residence permit and became undocumented, affecting their ability to find accommodation and work. Some academics have not been able to travel outside their city of residence for more than four years because of the differing practices regarding residence permits in their new countries or states.
Scholars also spoke about how their treatment had affected their academic work and said that they were particularly afraid of being targeted in classes with large numbers of students from Turkey. Some academics said they had had to stop lecturing because students had complained to consulates that their course content or discussions in lectures amounted to “terrorist propaganda”.
The interviewees highlighted how the stigmatisation of civil servants dismissed in the wake of the 2016 coup attempt was widespread not only in Turkey but also among people from Turkey living abroad. Some scholars said that they were forced to make an effort to conceal their dismissal and had been subjected to threats by neighbours and shopkeepers.
The report adds that the “impact of multiple crises and violations has become far more distressing with the disrupting repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic”.
“Academics are caught in a cycle of uncertainty due to the difficulty of obtaining residence permits based on employment in their country of residence. The precariousness and deprivation, which is experienced by dismissed academics and their relatives living in Turkey, has also severely affected those living abroad,” it says.
Lülüfer Körükmez, a researcher at the HRFT and co-author of the report, said that the experiences of dismissed Turkish academics living abroad was “a very under-researched, under-observed and under-reported area”.
“People think that when you leave the country then you are OK. But it is not OK because they still have cultural and political connections with the country and they face violations of rights,” she said.
Mehmet Ugur, professor of economics and institutions at the University of Greenwich and a member of Academics for Peace, said that the HRFT report “should put to shame European governments and international organisations for failing to challenge the Turkish government’s authoritarian and warmongering drive that is still costing lives not only in Turkey but also in the region”.
Hard work in completing scientific research and reaching creative solutions using the Young Scientists Center’s latest technologies resulted in Qatar University bags six prizes at global innovation contest. It is told in The Peninsula of 7 December 2020.
The Qatari pride was expressly reconfirmed in the country’s continuous support to all leaders of development and pioneers of the knowledge-based economy to fulfil Qatar National Vision 2030.
Doha: Four distinguished scientific projects of Qatar University’s (QU) Young Scientists Center (YSC) won six international prizes at the International Invention, Innovation & Technology Exhibition in Malaysia (ITEX).
The event was organised in cooperation with the International Federation of Inventors’ Associations and the Institute of Engineering and Technology. This achievement, which represents the State of Qatar and QU, was achieved in a strong competition that included 250 entries.
ITEX is an international competition held online this year, which targets school students and university students. This competition has several rules and guidelines that determine the type of projects that are qualified and the categories in which they can participate and compete. The exhibition provides a unique opportunity for all participating inventors to gain recognition for their inventions and showcase their innovative projects, and compete globally through the platform that it provides to them. Four groups of students affiliated with the centre’s programmes participated in projects developed at Qatar University laboratories using the latest equipment and research methods.
Sarah Al Obaidly, a student at the College of Engineering, and Maryam Al Kuwari, a student in the College of Arts and Sciences at Qatar University, affiliated with the ‘I am a Researcher’ programme, won the gold medal and an award in the “Top Three of Excellence” category, for a project titled “Functionalized polymer membrane for wastewater treatment, whose importance lies in purifying water from impurities.”
High school students Tamim Al Rashed and Youssef Al Mahmoud from Qatar Banking Studies and Business Administration school won the gold medal for a hydrogel sensor for agricultural applications that aims to improve soil properties and fertility.
Abdullah Al Janahi and Abdullah Al Nasr, Qatar Science and Technology school students, won the gold medal for a project entitled Intelligent and Robust Composite Nanofibers for the Autonomy of Electronic Devices.
As for the preparatory stage, Ahmed Majed and Ahmed Salama from Al Kaaban preparatory school for boys won a bronze medal and an award in the “Top Three of Excellence” category for a project titled ‘COVID-19 pandemic inspired at home innovation: Through an unconventional remote educational model executed by the Qatar University Young Scientists Center’. This project demonstrates the novel and effective educational methods applied by the centre to face the challenges of distance learning and to ensure students learn in a way that stimulates creativity and innovation.
The students’ outstanding success was pleasing to the sponsoring programme of the centre, “Ras Laffan Industrial City Community Outreach Program”. Their pride was expressed in the outcomes of hard work in completing scientific research and reaching creative solutions using the Young Scientists Center’s latest technologies at Qatar University. The programme affirmed its continuous support to all students to become the leaders of development in the country and pioneers of the knowledge-based economy to fulfil Qatar National Vision 2030.
Humanity originated on the African continent at least 300,000 years ago. We know from fossil evidence in southern Greece and the Levant (modern-day Israel) that some early members of our species expanded beyond Africa around 200,000 years ago, and again between 120,000 to 90,000 years ago. They likely travelled through the Sinai peninsula, which formed the only land bridge connecting the continent of Africa to the rest of the world, before moving north into a landscape with a Mediterranean climate.
But it was not known at what point humans turned south after crossing the Sinai peninsula, reaching modern day Saudi Arabia. It is also often assumed that they may have taken a coastal route, avoiding the currently harsh desert interior. Previous fossil finds show this was not the case, with humans moving into the heart of Arabia at least 85,000 years ago. Now, new research pushes this date back even further.
Colleagues and I discovered human and other animal footprints embedded on an ancient lake surface in the Nefud Desert in Saudi Arabia that are around 120,000 years old. These findings represent the earliest evidence for Homo sapiens on the Arabian Peninsula, and demonstrates the importance of Arabia for understanding human prehistory.
The Nefud Desert in modern-day Saudi Arabia lies around 500km to the southeast of the Sinai Peninsula. Today, the Arabian deserts are some of the most inhospitable environments in the world. They would form an impassable barrier for prehistoric humans or large mammals. Imagine standing at the foot of a hyper-arid desert equipped with stone tools and not much else. Could you get across? Probably not.
Scientific analysis shows that for most of their recent history, they were climatically similar to today: hyper-arid and impassable. But there is also evidence to show that at certain times in the past, the deserts transformed into savannah-like grasslands littered with freshwater resources. These “green” phases were likely short, probably lasting no more than a few millennia. Nonetheless, they provided windows of opportunity for humans and other animals to move into a new green landscape.
We know from fossil lake sediments that the Nefud Desert was one of those that periodically transformed into a more attractive landscape in the past, and the new footprints prove that early humans took advantage of one such window.
We were able to date the footprints by using a technique called luminescence dating to a period of time 102-132,000 years ago. Based on wider regional evidence for increased rainfall, we suggest they date to a period roughly 120,000 years ago, called the last interglacial.
We know that around this time that vast river systems spread across the Sahara Desert, with Middle Palaeolithic archaeology scattered along them. Other evidence for increased rainfall at this time comes from fossil stalagmites found in caves in desert regions in Arabia and ~500 km north of the Nefud in the Negev Desert. These features only grow in conditions where rainfall is greater than 300mm per year; substantially more than the amount (<90mm per year) they receive today.
While it is difficult to know for sure which species of human left these prints, we think they were most likely left by our own, Homo sapiens. This is based on the fact that Homo sapiens were present in the Levant, 700km to the north of the Nefud Desert, at a similar time. Neanderthals were absent from the Levant in this period and did not move back into the region until thousands of years later, when cooler conditions prevailed. Estimates of the humans mass and statue based on the footprints are also more consistent with our species than Neanderthals.
In addition to human footprints, elephant, horse and camel prints were also found. These footprints, studied in detail by Mathew Stewart at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, provide a wealth of new information regarding prehistoric interactions between humans, animals and the environment.
Footprints are a unique form of fossil evidence as they provide precise snapshots in time that typically represent a few hours or days. This is a resolution we do not get from other records. They also allow us to understand the behaviour of their makers, which is something we cannot get from fossils.
This allows us to understand the relationship between humans and other large mammals at a geologically precise moment in time.
Environmental analysis on the lake sediments show that the lake contained fresh “drinkable” water, while the variety of footprints shows that humans, elephants, camels and horses were using this resource at a similar time. Human and large-mammal movements would have been closely tied to fresh water and the pattern of footprints show both foraged on the lake bed when it was temporarily exposed. Humans may have been drawn to the area as they tracked large mammals, who would potentially serve as prey.
Surveys and analysis of fossils recovered from the site also shows that there are no stone tools or butchery of fossils. This indicates that the footprint-makers only very briefly visited the lake, foraging for resources before continuing on their journey.
It is not clear what happened to the people who left the footprints, but evidence suggests that they, along with the other early Homo sapiens explorers, either died out or retreated to more favourable environments as aridity returned to the desert.
Originally posted on Jayson Casper: Man walking past voting wall, Marrakesh, Morocco For the first time in his life, Rachid Imounan cast a vote—and overturned Morocco’s Islamist-oriented government. He is not alone. Turnout surged to 50 percent as liberals routed the Justice and Development Party (PJD), which led the North African nation’s parliament the past…
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.