The oil and gas industry has been historically volatile and marked by boom-and-bust cycles caused by fluctuating commodity prices, with company prospects often tied to hit-or-miss exploratory drilling. Not surprisingly, the industry has struggled with periodic brain drain since the 1980s as students looking for steady employment and career growth have been turned off by such uncertainty.
Technological advances such as seismic imaging, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing—all developed by private companies—have removed much of this volatility and changed the nature of the industry to more of a manufacturing operation. But now another source of even greater uncertainty has been injected into the mix: political and regulatory risk. This is one energy lesson that undergraduates are hearing loud and clear from their professors.Relax, all you wildcatters, the oil and gas industry's more like making license plates* these days. Ho hum.
John has an interesting assertion about the salary direction of petroleum engineers, which is a slight bit different than the predictions of some Texas A&M professors -- hard to say who's right, though.
I vaguely agree with the author that there is a lot of ideological-not-quite-fully-economically-incentivized push for educating students in green technology. But it's easier to say "we need to train more researchers in innovative new green nanofemtoyottotechnologies" to Congresscritters than it is to say "it sure would be helpful to have some more electrochemists around here", even as they might be the same thing.
Also, I feel the author doesn't look very closely at why some universities might have departments of petroleum engineering and some might not. It's not ideology, so much as economics and history.
*Reference from Neal Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon", explained here.