Posted September 11, 2014
Interesting energy discussion this week from New Orleans at a town hall event hosted by The Atlantic – where the focus was on infrastructure, jobs and economic growth, and the need for sensible, bipartisan energy policymaking.
There was no better place for such a conversation and certainly no better time – with our ongoing domestic energy revolution lifting the United States to global energy superpower status: No. 1 in natural gas production and expected to be No. 1 in oil production next year. This development is helping drive the economy forward, creating jobs, opportunity and greater U.S. energy security. Indeed, energy’s national economic impact is seen in a new survey of the 30,000 businesses, in every state and the District of Columbia, that support domestic energy development.
Louisiana is a snapshot of that development. A recent study detailed how the state benefits from energy: more than 287,000 jobs supported, $20.5 billion in household earnings, $1.5 billion in state taxes and fees paid by the oil and natural gas extraction, refining and pipeline industries and more.
Speakers and panelists at the New Orleans town hall talked about sustaining energy-associated growth, in Louisiana and across the country. API Executive Vice President Louis Finkel (left) highlighted a few points to frame the discussion:
- Energy is a bipartisan issue. Energy isn’t about red states or blue states but rather, it’s recognizing abundant energy is central to every Americans’ day-to-day lives and our country’s future.
- Americans are keen on domestic energy production. A recent poll found 77 percent of registered voters support increased domestic production of oil and natural gas, and 87 percent agreed increased domestic development could help stimulate the economy.
- America’s energy future is dependent on policy decisions made right now – underscoring the need for bold, cohesive energy strategies.
Finkel said industry’s goal is to make sure that government officials at all levels listen to the American people and implement policies that promote safe, responsible energy development – and along with it, job creation and economic growth.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu emphasized the central nature of energy policy:
“You can’t separate anything that you do in the United States of America from the power and the ability to do it, and energy fuels what we do, how we do it, when we do it. … (I)t helps create prosperity, security and in many instances freedom. It’s ever-present. You can’t extricate a decision about almost anything in America from our sources of energy.”
The clear follow-up point is making decisions that encourage domestic energy development while avoiding policies and approaches that needlessly hinder it. Energy activity in Louisiana – and especially offshore in the Gulf of Mexico – is a window to that discussion. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne:
Good energy policy acknowledges that “a state like Louisiana has the God-given natural resources beneath our soil and should be recognized and taken advantage of from a policy standpoint for the country and not be punitive toward that state that has those resources and encourage that (development) to happen. … As an example, the (drilling) moratorium that took place after the (2010) spill was economically devastating for Louisiana. It shut down everything.”
Chris John of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association (LMOGA) and Eric Smith, associate director of the Tulane University Energy Institute, said regulations that are sensible and certain are critical to fostering energy investment and development.
“The thing that will turn the industry away from offshore and the Gulf of Mexico is uncertainty in regulations,” Smith said. John said Gulf energy operations have come back, with 40 active deepwater wells compared to 33 in 2010. Experts expect there will be 70 wells active by 2017, John said. Onshore, Louisiana’s geologically diverse Haynesville and Tuscaloosa Marine shale plays show the need for sound, state-based regulatory approaches – as opposed to a “cookie cutter” approach from Washington.
Discussion also highlighted the need for training and recruitment, to supply the energy workers needed to meet rising development now and to prepare for workforce shifts in the future. Walt Leger, speaker pro tempore in the Louisiana House of Representatives:
“There’s always a challenge to filling our labor needs. … LMOGA has made some excellent partnerships with the Louisiana technical college system. So have many of our industry leaders across the state who have designed training programs to get people ready fill these jobs. That’s in petroleum technology, that’s in industrial operators. Over the course of the next five to seven years 30 to 40 percent of our operators in industrial plants across the state will be retiring, and so we have a need to fill those jobs, prepare the future workforce of the energy sector now, but also to get young people trained so that they can fill the emerging and growing jobs.”
America’s oil and natural gas industry is leading the way forward now, supporting 9.8 million jobs while making our economy stronger and the U.S. more energy secure. Sustaining those benefits hinges on leadership that recognizes, as LMOGA’s John said, that the United States has an opportunity to harness energy wealth “that we never thought we’d have.”
America’s energy, America’s choice.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.