President Obama should focus on policies that promote job creation in the oil and gas industry in addition to targeting "green job" development, the head of the lead oil and gas trade group said today.
Obama is expected to talk about job creation in tomorrow's State of the Union address, and the oil and gas industry is a "natural partner" in creating jobs, Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, said in a conference call with reporters.
"We share a common goal, more jobs," Gerard said. "We need to move beyond sloganeering and work together to create common-sense energy policies."
The call came as the Obama administration works to show it is focused on jobs and help for middle-class Americans, with some tax breaks expected to be announced. Some Democratic strategists also expect Obama to talk about climate legislation as a means of job creation.
Gerard said API is skeptical that there will be a climate bill this year. He repeated API's earlier call for a "restart" on climate legislation that would throw out the House-passed bill and the Senate legislation from Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).
Gerard did not specify any proposals API is seeking but said the trade group is opposed to any tax policies that penalize the industry. He described earlier tax proposals as "anti-jobs ... and anti-energy." He did not say what tax proposals he was referring to, but the Obama administration last year indicated it was looking at reversing several tax breaks previously given to the industry.
He sharply criticized Interior Department actions that he said have led to a dramatic drop in the leasing of federal land and waters for oil and natural gas development. Since Interior Secretary Ken Salazar took office, Gerard said, acreage leased "has shrunk to the lowest level on record."
Revenues from lease sales in 2009 were less than $1 billion, he said, compared with $10 billion a year earlier.
"We don't think those are good public policies," Gerard said.
Asked what role the recession played in that revenue drop, Gerard said economic conditions were a factor but that companies make decisions looking decades out.
Speaking Friday in Elyria, Ohio, Obama said he would bend toward Republican demands on oil production and nuclear power as keys to passing an energy and climate bill. And he urged lawmakers to stay focused even though the debate will inevitably get messy.
"I'm not ideological about this," Obama said. "But we also have to acknowledge that if we're going to actually have an energy-independent economy, that we've got to make some changes. We can't just keep on doing business the same way. And that's going to be a big, complicated discussion."
Gerard also spoke about Salazar's decision to open a 45-day comment period on the potential significant environmental effects of oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic Coast, a move Congress recently required.
"We're glad the secretary has finally agreed to do this," Gerard said. "From our standpoint, this is a no-brainer."
Gerard said he would welcome an opportunity to tone down angry rhetoric between the oil and gas industry and Salazar.
He also was asked about the Supreme Court decision throwing out limits on campaign contributions and whether that would mean oil and gas companies now would be writing beefy checks to candidate campaigns.
"I don't see any dramatic change in the short term," Gerard said.