The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

A Face of the Industry

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted June 9, 2009

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This is a face of the oil and natural gas industry.

She is Geraldine Storer, wife and mother of three young children, and an employee of Shell Exploration & Production Company in Alaska. Geri came to Washington this week along with 28 other women from the oil and natural gas industry to meet with U.S. Representatives and Senators on Capitol Hill.

Their goal--to show members of Congress that when they demonize the industry, they also criticize the people who work in oil and natural gas. "It's too easy to go after an industry when you don't see a face," Geri said.

Geri has chosen to work for an oil company for several reasons. First, she is impressed with the caliber of her colleagues. She says they are smart, creative, disciplined and have a strong work ethic. Going to work, she says, she is challenged every day by a company that is always striving to be better, to learn and to engage the community. And it affects her personally when elected officials criticize the industry based on what she calls "imperfect information out there that's not very sophisticated."

"We're professionals who hold the highest professional standards," Geri told me. "We have a sense of pride." Overall, 1.8 million people work in the oil and natural gas industry and another 4 million have jobs that are supported by the industry. Geri also has seen first-hand how the industry can change lives for the better.

A native Alaskan, Geri was a young girl when the Trans Alaska Pipeline was constructed and oil began flowing from Prudhoe Bay oilfields. The impact on her Inupiat community was immediate; oil revenues made it possible for her community to leave the Bureau of Indian Affairs jurisdiction and create the North Slope Borough, a government entity giving her community the ability to set its own policies and determine its future. Oil revenues provided the funding for adequate housing where homes had been substandard, sewers where none had existed, higher educational standards with the flexibility to teach gifted students such as Geri--and perhaps most important--jobs and training opportunities to raise the standard of living. For the first time, Geri said, people in her community had a voice.

Under the new system of governance, Geri flourished. She earned two undergraduate degrees at Wellesley and a Harvard MBA. One of her degrees is in economics. "It's proven around the world that when you invest in energy, you stimulate the economy," Geri says. And it's far better to stimulate our own economy and keep major companies in the United States than to send dollars abroad, she adds. Furthermore, she says the oil companies practice sound environmental policies. "Just because we choose to develop resources in the U.S., doesn't mean we choose to be careless and reckless."

Geri explains many people don't understand that oil and natural gas companies are "real and tangible"--more than a name on a gasoline pump. They consist of real, ethical people who care about the environment and the world where their children will grow up. When asked why she made the trip to Washington to meet with members of Congress, she says, "I want them to know I do care."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jane Van Ryan was formerly senior communications manager and new media advisor at the American Petroleum Institute (API), where she wrote blog posts and produced podcasts and videos. Before coming to API, Jane managed communications for a large science and engineering corporation, and for a top-tier research and engineering university. A few years ago, you might have seen her in your living room when she delivered the news on television. Jane officially retired from API in 2011 and now freelances as an independent communications consultant when not gardening at her farm in Virginia.