Natural Gas, Climate Progress and the Workforce of the Future
Posted October 21, 2021
API President and CEO Mike Sommers joined other energy industry CEOs on a panel hosted by the American Association of Blacks in Energy this week that focused on the energy transition, inclusion in the workforce of the future and equity in access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy.
It was a good conversation that underscored the need to develop a broad range of energy sources, including natural gas, oil and renewables, to secure America’s future energy security. Highlights:
Present and future role of natural gas
The U.S. is the world’s leading producer of natural gas and oil. Access to domestic resources and the ability to expand and build infrastructure to deliver it to every corner of the nation are critically important. Natural gas is at the center of reducing U.S. carbon dioxide emissions – the increased use of which is the No. 1 reason U.S. power-sector emissions are at their lowest levels in a generation. Sommers:
“This industry is the [biggest] reason why we’ve been able to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions over the course of the last decade … We need to build on that progress.”
Sommers pointed to API’s Climate Action Framework as a plan to build a lower-carbon future – through a market-based, economy-wide price on carbon, accelerated technology and innovation, reduced industry emissions, cleaner fuels and robust emissions reporting – all while meeting the world’s increasing demand for energy. He noted that oil and gas will supply nearly 50% of global energy demand even if countries meet international climate goals. Sommers:
“The Climate Action Framework … is really a robust policy plan for both industry and government to address the climate challenge while at the same time meeting the world’s growing energy needs. We know that the world is going to continue to demand oil and gas far into the future.”
Tackling energy needs and climate goals
The dual challenge of supplying the world with the energy it needs and achieving a lower-carbon future is intertwined, Sommers said:
“It’s really fundamental to who we are as a people. … I think this is also an opportunity, and it’s really the opportunity of our time. It’s really the greatest scientific question that we’re going to have to deal with as a country over the course of the next decade. Governments, industries, consumers and, of course, our [companies] in particular, are really going to have to rise to this challenge. We at the American Petroleum Institute want to meet that challenge head on. We’re in the middle of making sure that the world is provided with affordable and reliable energy going forward.”
On the energy-supply side, Sommers talked about a “tri-lemma” – providing energy that’s affordable, reliable and cleaner – and he said the natural gas and oil industry is on it:
“You have to meet all three, and the oil and gas industry is doing everything it can to meet all three. It’s one thing to have cleaner energy, but if your lights don’t go on and [energy] is expensive, consumers are going to reject that energy. So, we need to make sure that we’re meeting all three of the challenges … and that’s really where our advocacy is focused.”
A workforce that looks like America
The natural gas and oil industry supports 11.3 million jobs – in occupations that pay on average 50% more than the average U.S. job. Sommers called them middle class-sustaining jobs and said they’re present in every state, in every congressional district.
Industry offers great opportunity and is actively working to further diversify its workforce. One study estimated that nearly 50% of industry’s job opportunities through 2040 will be filled by African Americans, Hispanics, Asians or non-whites, Sommers said.
To build this next-generation workforce, API and its members have supported education in the STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), so that students are building the knowledge base they’ll need to make careers in natural gas and oil.
In addition, earlier this year API launched an initiative that makes all 700+ API/industry standards accessible, free of charge, to students at participating accredited Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions. Prairie View A&M University, Southern University and A&M College and Grambling University are the program’s first three participants. The program is an advantage for students at these schools, introducing them to practical knowledge and natural gas and oil standards that will be the bedrock to future careers in industry. Sommers:
“We’re going to have to continue to expand the workforce so that the workforce of the energy industry looks like the American population. That’s how we’re going to continue to attract the best and the brightest in in this country.”
Sound energy policy is critical
Sommers and other panelists said the country needs a firmer energy policy footing, one that recognizes the need for energy diversity, common-sense regulation and bipartisan support in Washington. Sommers:
“I bet if you locked the five of us in a room for 24 hours, we could probably come up with an energy bill that we would all agree to. Unfortunately, energy has just become such a partisan football on Capitol Hill. … We need to make sure that we are electing problem solvers to Congress, people who are really focused on challenging the status quo and solving the big problems of the day, rather than partisans, who are only interested in scoring political points. America needs an energy policy going forward that makes sense, that meets the challenge of the energy ‘tri-lemma.’ We’re not getting that right now. … America deserves better than the partisanship that is going on right now on energy policy.”
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. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. 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 have two grown children and six grandchildren.