Starting the Energy Debate by Mark Green

Will Americans vote energy in 2012? We think they should, and API President and CEO Jack Gerard made a compelling argument for it yesterday at the second State of American Energy event in Washington, D.C.

Gerard’s speech was both an appeal and a signal. The appeal: America’s oil and natural gas industry believes there’s never been a better time for a fact-based debate on energy that focuses on ways to help make this country more energy self-reliant and more secure. The signal: API’s new Vote 4 Energy campaign is under way, designed to persuade American voters to be energy-issue voters in this election year.

If you missed it you can see Gerard’s speech and subsequent Q&A here. Key takeaway points:

* The United States has vast energy resources, onshore and offshore, that are among the largest in the world.

* With the right policies in place, we could see 100 percent of our liquid fuel needs supplied domestically and from Canada by 2026.

* A pro-energy development approach could produce 1 million new U.S. jobs by 2018 and billions of dollars in additional revenue to government.

* Vote 4 Energy is an informational/engagement campaign to help Americans see what’s at stake and why energy should figure prominently in their voting decisions. Gerard:

    “It’s not about candidates, it’s not about political parties, it’s not even about political philosophy. Energy should not be a partisan issue. It’s an American issue. … We believe a vote for energy will elevate the energy conversation.”

Certainly, there are hurdles to clear. Opposition to this vision is primarily political. Yet, the energy debate this country needs should be based on fact – not ideology, distortions or caricatures. Some key areas to watch:

Earnings – America’s oil and natural gas industry is strong and economically dynamic, contributing $476 billion to the U.S. economy in 2010. Industry earnings, averaging about 7 cents for every dollar of sales over the past five years, are well in line with the U.S. manufacturing sector. Most accrue to regular Americans – individual investors and the beneficiaries of public and private pension and retirement funds.

Taxes – The industry uses tax deductions available to virtually all U.S. businesses. As for taxes paid, oil and natural gas companies pay their fair share, more than the average manufacturing company, with income tax expenses (as a share of net income before income taxes) averaging 41.1 percent in 2010, compared to 26.5 percent for other S&P Industrial companies.

Jobs – The industry supports 9.2 million jobs, a lot of them well-paying jobs. Its job-creating ability already is being demonstrated in areas where energy development is taking place – North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas and other states. Growth is especially robust where natural gas and oil are being produced from shale on a revolutionary scale through hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.

Access – The industry’s message, one of those to be borne in the Vote 4 Energy campaign, is that it’s ready to do more. Construction of the Keystone XL pipeline would create 20,000 new U.S. jobs right away, and the pipeline would be a critical piece in an approach to Canada’s oil sands that could create 500,000 new U.S. jobs by 2035. Real jobs, real paychecks.

As Gerard said, the pipeline awaits a decision that the project is in the U.S. national interest. Gen. James Jones, the president’s former national security adviser, strongly believes it is. So do Steve Rattner, the administration’s former “car czar” and others. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper calls the Keystone XL decision a “no-brainer.”

We could go on – and will. The debate’s just getting started.

The State of American Energy 2012

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