My own disclaimer: I fully intended to post about this news item when it was “newsworthy” but I got bogged down in my daily work obligations for the last 6 weeks and it never happened. Aside from that, since Feb. 1 the world has literally witnessed revolutions, massive tidal waves, immeasurable human suffering and near nuclear meltdown – so this little story about ‘a little refinery-that-could-but-won’t’ in rural MS probably seems like a wasted effort. Anyhoo, I hope that the unforgiving pace of the news cycle will excuse my tardiness and readers will find interest to continue reading about events in Pascagoula.
In late December, the media caught wind of an expected announcement from Chevron about new investments in their Pascagoula plant that would help to better diversify their “downstream” product line and services. The announcement came shortly after firing 1,000 San Ramon, CA employees at its home office and another 1,000 workers worldwide.
The new facility in MS will only produce 20 permanent jobs after construction of the $1.4 billion facility is complete. That’s an capital investment of $95 million on Chevron’s part to create just one full-time job. Sure, construction will create about 1,000 jobs each lasting two years, but after that it’s just 20 lucky souls who can plan their lives with assurance they will be able to raise families with security and contribute to long-term retirement plans. The others? Might as well be day laborers.
The argument that private sector investment is the only way the U.S. will be able to dig out from high unemployment is pretty hard to make with players like Chevron at the table. For Chevron and other similar corporations, investment is a numbers game with a strict bottom line — not a social, humanistic exercise to see who can make the most well-paying, full-time jobs with the least amount of money spent. The fewer jobs created, the less amount paid out to salaries, benefits, worker’s comp and the like – and that’s the outright goal: profitability.
Even Chevron can’t exude much confidence in their announcement that the plant will contribute to Mississippi’s future economic prosperity. A disclaimer at the bottom of the press release reads:
Some of the items discussed in this press release are forward-looking statements about Chevron’s downstream activities at its Pascagoula refinery. Words such as “anticipates,” “expects,” “intends,” “plans,” “targets,” “projects,” “believes,” “seeks,” “schedules,” “estimates,” “budgets” and similar expressions are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. The statements are based upon management’s current expectations, estimates and projections; are not guarantees of future performance; and are subject to certain risks, uncertainties and other factors, some of which are beyond the company’s control and are difficult to predict. Among the factors that could cause actual results to differ materially are changes in prices of, demand for and supply of crude oil and natural gas; changing refining, marketing and chemical margins; actions of competitors or regulators; potential delays in the development, construction or start-up of planned projects; the potential disruption or interruption of production and manufacturing facilities due to war, accidents, political events, civil unrest, or severe weather; government-mandated sales, divestitures, recapitalizations and changes in fiscal terms or restrictions on scope of company operations; and general economic and political conditions. You should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date of this press release. Unless legally required, Chevron undertakes no obligation to update publicly any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
Chevron’s buzz-kill public relations approach is somewhat admirable, though, considering the fact that thousands will still apply for these jobs with hope they’ll be one of twenty. The job market is just that TOUGH these days (spoken from someone just recently into full-employment after looking aimlessly for 15 months).