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NEW YORK (
TheStreet ) --
Devon Energy(DVN - Get Report) CEO John Richels has three suggestions for the how the U.S. government can jumpstart hiring: Allow companies to repatriate cash, keep tax deductions and get out of the way.
The oil and natural gas industry employs 1.8 million people in the U.S., according to Energy API and Devon employs 5,000 of them. The company, about one-third oil and two-thirds natural gas, was named one of 100 best places to work by
Fortune Magazine, but Richels says further growth is becoming increasingly difficult because of government interference.
Since the beginning of 2001, the industry has hired 60,000 people, but continuing to expand is hard. In 2010, the industry added just 5,000 jobs and 17,000 in 2011 -- a preliminary reading.
TheStreet spoke with Richels to find out what would lead his company to hire more people and what he thinks the government could do to help him.
Richels: What we really need is a pick-up in demand [for natural gas] and part of that is economy related. We have less industrial demand today than we had a few years ago. Part of that will come back with a recovering economy ... I think we are going to see more utilities and power producers moving into building natural gas fired plants which will increase demand.
Also, on the transportation side we've got a lot more activity than we've ever had in terms of converting to natural gas as a fuel for automobiles. It already works great for fleet vehicles and any vehicles that can go out from one spot for a day and then come back because it doesn't require a re-engineering of the fuel delivery system but over time [it will] spread to a lot more vehicular uses as well.
TheStreet: How pivotal is government support for this or is it going to come from the private sector?
I think a lot will come from the private sector. What we really need from the government is to not curtail this industry. It's one of the very few industries that has been continuing to hire people, continuing to grow even through the downturn in the economy in the last few years.