Energy group goes on offensive before elections
The American Petroleum Institute vowed Tuesday to ratchet up the pressure on Washington, saying its lobbying arm would push for policies—and politicians—more favorably disposed to America's oil and gas boom.
With congressional elections less than a year away, and with the controversial Keystone XL pipeline still on indefinite hold, the industry's main trade organization said that it would expend resources to "spur more pro-energy policies and to ensure that our nation's discussion on energy policy is based on fact and reality, not political orthodoxy and hyperbole," said Jack Gerard, API's president and CEO.
The group will use its political arm, America's Energy, America's Choice, to "use the upcoming midterm elections as a means to frame and positively influence the long-term energy policy discussion," he said. Policymakers need to "better align our nation's political science with our geologic science, because right now the former all too often drives energy policy."
Touting figures from a new API-sponsored study that oil and gas production over the next 12 years would inject $94 billion a year to the economy and support nearly 1 million jobs, Gerard said it was important to implement "smart, pro-growth energy policies" to ensure America's energy independence.
Gerard's remarks were unusual for their political tone. While normally vocal about the need for the U.S. to embrace fossil fuel production, energy public policy lobbying takes place behind the scenes – and rarely, if ever, are they proceeded by a public call to influence the electoral process.
"In other words, elections matter," he told attendees at the API's State of American Energy 2014 conference. He used language calibrated to the debate in Washington over income disparity and raising the minimum wage, calling fracking "essential" to the nation's development as an energy superpower and insisting that public opinion is on the API's side.
"The truth is, the average upstream oil and natural gas job pays roughly seven times the federal minimum wage," Gerard said, renewing the call for approval of the Keystone pipeline. "The American people get it and stand with us on today's most important energy policy questions."
US oil and gas direct capital investment forecast (in millions)
The API's study on the economic impact of the energy boom, conducted jointly with research firm IHS, projected that oil and gas investment could generate at least $59 billion in worker income and upward of $21 billion in tax revenues every year between 2014 and 2025.
Still, environmental advocates have long pushed back against some of the rosy assumptions associated with the fracking boom. On its website, the National Resource Defense Council featured a recent study that questioned much of the strides claimed by oil and gas drilling advocates.
Calling the oil and gas industry projections "grossly overstated," the NRDC added that "research has found that net job creation is substantially higher with clean energy investments than fossil fuels…and there are more types of all jobs in cleaner energy."
Given what he called the high economic stakes, Gerard said the U.S. has a responsibility to "fully develop our enormous energy resources, so that future generations inherit an energy-self-sufficient nation that's the world's leader in energy production."
—By CNBC's Javier E. David