The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

The Importance of Informed Decision Making

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted July 14, 2009

Jimmie James has experienced life without the modern conveniences supplied by electricity. Growing up in small town in Texas, he says he and his family used wood for heat and kerosene in their lamps. "It's not something I saw on the History Channel," he says. "It was something I lived." Today he's grateful that his life, as well as the U.S. standard of living, is vastly improved due to oil and natural gas and their contributions to society. And he doesn't want to return to the past through a well-intended but ill-conceived energy policy.

"This issue affects every person on the planet," Jimmie says, adding that it is "important that all of us participate."

Jimmie, who serves as vice president and northern operations manager for ExxonMobil, is one of 37 African Americans from 15 energy companies who are meeting with elected officials on Capitol Hill today and tomorrow. The goal: to help members of Congress understand the correlation between energy and quality of life, and encourage them to make sound policy decisions.

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From left to right, Albert Dozier, Jimmie James, Seyi Harris.

Seyi (pronounced SHAY) Harris says he wants to the tell Congress about the people who work in the industry and their commitment to safety and environmental protection. As a reservoir engineer for Devon Energy working in the Barnett Shale play, Seyi has had a lot of exposure to oil and natural gas field operations. "Workers live in the places where they operate," Seyi says. "We're out here working, doing it to the best of our abilities in the safest way possible."

Both Seyi and Albert Dozier, manager of special project and contract administration at Anadarko, have several family members who also work in the energy business. Albert says he wants Congress and the administration to understand the potential impact of their decisions. And he questions the administration's claims that its energy tax proposals and the House version of the cap-and-trade bill will create jobs, reduce carbon emissions, and improve energy security. Not so, says Albert. "The jobs will go overseas," he says, "and emissions will go overseas where the U.S. has no control." Albert adds that the administration's proposals also would cause the United States to become more dependent on imports.

Jimmie and Albert say they hope they'll be able to help members of Congress understand energy so they can make informed choices. "It's critical that lawmakers understand the issues and the consequences of their decisions," Jimmie says.

Albert, who will mark his 30th year in the energy industry this week says, "We want them to understand the impact on people"--including the jobs of energy industry personnel.

"It's important that we get this right," Jimmie adds. "We know what the future could look like, because we've seen it before."

The Hill meetings are being organized by API and are part of a series of events in which energy workers from all over America come to Washington to meet with their elected officials. Read our June 10th blog post for information about a similar event involving women in the energy business.

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.