Jane Van Ryan
Posted May 11, 2010
In today's episode, I interview Chris John, president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association, about Louisiana's response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the importance of continuing offshore development.
Use the audio player below to listen to information about the article and follow along with the show notes. I hope you find the podcast informative.
00:17 BP reported last week that approximately 30,000 people have volunteered to help clean up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. So far, BP reports that 4,000 of these volunteers have been trained. The strong interest in the clean-up does not come as a surprise to Chris John, president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association. He's on the phone today to help describe how Louisiana is responding to the spill.
00:47 How would you describe the reaction of the people in Louisiana to the oil spill?
00:54 Chris John: We Louisianans have been in the oil and natural gas business for nearly 100 years. I think we understand best the impact that the industry has on the economy, as well as how important Louisiana is to America's energy security. Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico produce about 25 percent of our domestic oil. Although the people of Louisiana are very concerned about this spill, they also understand that this industry is here to stay for a while because of our energy needs. We need to get focused on finding out what went wrong, cleaning up the spill and getting back to producing the energy that both the state and nation desperately needs.
01:53 I know that Louisiana is a big energy producing state, but how would you describe the importance of oil and natural gas to your state's economy?
02:04 Chris John: It's tremendous. In Louisiana, 320,000 people are employed by the industry--directly and indirectly--and of that, about 60,000 are directly tied to exploration, production, refining and pipelines in this state. For many years, the industry has been an economic driver for this state and currently has a $70 billion impact on Louisiana. In fact, I was in the state legislature in the late 80s, and understand that the industry and its revenues are about 14 percent of the state's budget.
03:27 The energy industry is not the only industry in Louisiana; you also have a lot of people in the fishing and tourism industries. How are they reacting to the spill?
03:37 Chris John: As you can imagine, they're very concerned about their industries. Both the tourism and fishery industries are very important to the state. One-third of the seafood comes from the Gulf of Mexico and its estuaries. The fishermen are not only concerned about it, but also understand the oil and natural gas industry and how it coexists with the coasts. They're joining in the efforts and offering their expertise to the Coast Guard and to the EPA.
04:35 Just a couple of days ago, you spent some time along the Louisiana coast where responders are working to stop the leaking oil. What did you see and how would you describe the level of activity down there?
04:47 Chris John: It was heartwarming. I went down to Hopedale, Louisiana, which is the staging point for the oil booms--approximately 1 million feet of boom have already been deployed across the Gulf Coast. It was very good to see not only the state officials and federal officials, but also their interaction with the local fishermen and people employed by the agencies. The activity level was incredible. Everyone had a job to do. They had assembly lines of people unloading booms off 18-wheelers onto boats. It was heartwarming to see how engaged both officials and Louisiana residents were in the efforts.
05:55 How would you characterize BP's response to the spill?
05:59 Chris John: This of course is the first time something like this has happened in the Gulf of Mexico and BP has certainly stepped up to the plate. I've been on several conference calls with them and they're going to do what it takes, both from a financial and resource standpoint. Even state and federal officials have said that BP is doing everything they can. This incident is bigger than BP. There is a small family of oil and natural gas companies that operate in the deepwater Gulf and they have also stepped up to the task. These companies have pitched in their resources, such as boats and ROVs (remotely operated vehicles). I think BP has done what they can do in a situation as massive as this. This is about the oil and natural gas industry as a whole--it's bigger than BP.
07:25 I understand that a group of Congressmen recently visited Hopedale, Louisiana.
07:36 Chris John: Yes, this is correct. I think it was very important for members of Congress to get a first-hand view of the situation, and a feel of the culture and Louisiana's Coast, both from the recreational and commercial side, and also to get an understanding of the oil and natural gas industry and their activities. As a former member of Congress, I can understand how you can be removed from the situation in the halls of the U.S. Capitol. U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming was one of the policy makers that visited Hopedale. I had a chance to speak to Rep. Markey and he was very concerned about the spill, but I think he was very encouraged to see the level of activity from the federal government, BP, other oil and natural gas companies and the local residents. Again, I think it's very important to get policy makers, who are eventually going to make decisions on the future of domestic offshore oil and natural gas, down here.
09:20 Chris, you bring a unique perspective to this oil spill. You've been a member of Congress and have worked in the oil and natural gas industry for some time. In your view, should this spill alter the president's plan to expand offshore energy development?
09:37 Chris John: We were very encouraged by President Obama's announcement several weeks ago about expanding offshore access to oil and natural gas exploration. When you look at Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Oklahoma, which I call the "producing states," it's still a numbers game in Congress. The people that understand this industry, such as Louisianans and Texans, are the minority in Congress. It is our job to make sure people understand that--along with alternatives--oil and natural gas has to be a major part of the mix in providing energy for this country. In fact, as someone said, we're going to need every drop and every BTU of energy we can find to fuel our growing economy.
10:53 Very good point. Chris John, thank you for joining us today on Energy Tomorrow Radio.
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.