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Jack Gerard's Remarks at American Association of Blacks in Energy National Conference

Jack N. Gerard
American Association of Blacks in Energy National Conference
March 24, 2017

As prepared for delivery

Thank you, Lonnie, for that kind introduction. And I want to thank Paula and her team at the American Association of Blacks in Energy for your rich heritage of leadership on energy policy and for helping to advance workplace diversity in our industry.

I want to congratulate Board Chair, Rose McKinney James, for her ongoing leadership in our industry and to acknowledge her dedication to advancing the mission and vision of this association.

I also want to recognize Frank Stewart, a former leader of this organization, for his continued support and involvement with AABE. At API, we are grateful for his wisdom and leadership as he continues to be an important partner in our outreach efforts.

Ensuring that our industry’s workforce is comprised of the best and the brightest from all regions, all demographic groups and every skill level is essential to continuing our nation’s 21st century energy renaissance, which has made the United States the leading producer of oil, natural gas and refined product in the world.

The United States’ rise to global energy leadership speaks to what can be accomplished through hard work, ingenuity and innovation. Sustaining our global energy leadership requires that we attract the talent and ambition of as wide a range of people as possible to meet the challenges ahead and to create the innovations of the future.

Expanding the diversity of our workforce is not only the right thing to do, it is a business necessity.

While the recent swings in the price of oil and natural gas have led to some restructuring in our industry, the long-term trend is positive.

North American energy production is expected to increase for many years to come and, as a result, so is the number of jobs available within the industry, which puts our nation at the nexus of two dramatic changes: First, a 21st century American energy renaissance; second, a significant demographic change and even more diverse society.

API, at the direction of our Board of Directors and in partnership with organizations like AABE, is helping to build awareness within underrepresented communities, not only about the variety of opportunities available in our industry, but more broadly, how our industry is a positive and integral part of everyday life.

Our nation’s diversity is also one of its great strengths. To better understand what the demographic changes mean for our industry, we commissioned a report, “Minority and Female Employment in the Oil & Gas and Petrochemical Industries, 2015-2035.”

As most of you know, the report estimates that nearly 1.3 million job opportunities could be created by 2025, and the most recent update estimates nearly 1.9 million job opportunities through 2035 across the country in the oil and natural gas and petrochemicals industry.

Nationally, the report projects that, on our current course, almost 707,000 positions of the 1.9 million opportunities – nearly 40 percent of the total expected opportunities –will go to African American and Hispanic workers. 16 percent – or nearly 290,000 – will go to women.

The report also estimates that African American and Hispanic workers are projected to make up nearly 25 percent of new hires in management, business, and financial jobs through 2035. This is a good start, but there’s more that can be done.

We know from our research and from our outreach efforts that the number one reason more women, African Americans, Latinos, and even millennials do not apply for jobs in our industry is lack of awareness about the opportunities. And all of us have a role to play to build that awareness, which is why we appreciate the work that AABE members and chapters do consistently in cities throughout this nation.

The report is a wake-up call for our nation and our industry when it comes to the difference between the current levels of educational attainment in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and what will be needed in the years ahead.

For the past several years, the United States has slipped relative to other developed nations when it comes to producing college graduates with degrees in science and engineering.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States ranks 27 out of 34 developed nations in the proportion of college students receiving undergraduate degrees in science or engineering.

We want to make sure the industry’s message of economic opportunity is heard and understood by both individuals and communities.

Of course, continued American global energy leadership depends on more than ensuring that our long-term workforce needs are met. It also depends on getting our nation’s energy policy right.

For the first time in generations the American energy policy discussion is focused on abundance, leadership and opportunity. Not scarcity, dependence and uncertainty.

Remaining a global energy superpower requires an all-of-the-above approach that is informed by market realities and focused on what’s best for consumers and our environment.

Market realities, along with innovation throughout our industry, have been the driving forces behind the increased use of domestically produced clean-burning natural gas throughout the country. A good example is the mix of energy used to keep pace with ever increasing demand for electricity.

The supply of affordable, abundant and reliable natural gas has led to lower energy costs for consumers and reduced carbon emissions from electricity generation.

Distorting the electricity or any other market to benefit one type of energy over another is not how our nation became a global energy leader. And it certainly isn’t how we will remain one.

Our goal is to encourage energy policies that promote American energy development and a fair marketplace where all forms of energy are welcome to compete evenly for the benefit of consumers. Because when government interferes too heavily in the market, it is often the consumer who ultimately pays.

America’s energy abundance has meant the American consumer’s energy costs are lower today. The average American household saved as much as $1337 due to lower utility costs and other energy-related savings in 2015. In addition, AAA reports that American drivers saved as much as $550 in transportation fuel costs.

America’s energy abundance is also helping to cut energy and materials costs for American manufacturers –many of who are represented here today – including producers of steel, chemicals, refined fuels, plastics, fertilizers and numerous consumer products.

U.S. industrial electricity costs are 30 to 50 percent lower than those of our foreign competitors. And American manufacturing costs are now 10 to 20 percent lower than those in Europe and could be 2 to 3 percent lower than in China by 2018, an important competitive edge.

Lower energy costs are resulting in the return of manufacturing to the United States. For example, according to an analysis by the American Chemistry Council, chemical production grew 1.6 percent in 2015 and is projected to continue to increase through 2020 as new capacity from 264 new, announced projects are brought online.

Energy policy is more than an abstract political discussion or partisan exercise. It is about creating well-paying jobs, expanding economic opportunity, continuing environmental progress and enhancing national security.

Ultimately, the question before us is not if we have the energy we’ll need or the means and methods to safely and responsibly, develop, transport, store and refine it.
The question is whether we have the vision to work together, beyond political labels or partisan mindsets, to advance policies that promote the safe and responsible development of our nation’s vast energy resources to benefit the American consumer, the economy and the environment

We’ve come a long way since the start of this decade when our nation’s energy future seemed destined to be defined by scarcity and insecurity. All of us should be proud of that progress and the part we’ve played in it.

Throughout our history, the oil and natural gas industry has shown the world how entrepreneurial spirit, innovations in energy production techniques, and a core commitment to safety -- pioneered and reaffirmed every day by the millions of women and men of the oil and natural gas industry -- have transformed the United States from a passive consumer on the world energy stage to a leader in only about a decade’s time.

But, even in the face of the clear success of America’s current energy reality, there is a vocal minority who seeks to obstruct and prevent domestic energy development to advance an anti-fossil fuel political agenda.

The fact is that policies that hinder domestic energy production run opposite to the prevailing opinion shared by energy policy experts, economists and U.S. government agencies.

In 2040 the Energy Information Administration projects that oil and natural gas will supply 60 percent of U.S. energy needs even under the most optimistic scenarios for renewable energy growth. What’s more, they project that worldwide energy consumption will increase by 48 percent by 2040 and that 78 percent of that will be met by fossil fuels.

If we ignore these facts and pursue an energy strategy that keeps fossil fuels in the ground, as our most ardent critics advocate, we would be pursuing an energy vision that could drive consumer costs up, dampen economic growth and make our nation energy insecure once more.

In the coming weeks we’ll release a report that quantifies what the so-called “keep it the ground” approach means in the real world.

It could mean that by 2040 the average American household could see an annual increase of almost $2,000 in their energy bill. If you factor in the “hidden” energy costs that include other goods and services whose price is affected by energy costs, the increase more than doubles to $4,550 in 2040.

It could also mean a cumulative loss of $11.8 trillion in the nation’s GDP through 2040 and the loss of almost 6 million jobs in 2040.

And many of these same critics continue to advance the false choice between increased energy development, economic growth and a cleaner environment – a position that flouts what we know to be true today.

According to the EPA, greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation are at their lowest point in 25 years even as electricity demand rises. And our nation’s best-in-the-world refineries are producing advanced, cleaner gasoline and diesel fuels, which in combination with more fuel-efficient vehicles, has reduced U.S. air pollutants by 70 percent since 1970, even as vehicle miles travelled have increased by more than 170 percent.

In some ways, our industry is a victim of its own success. Energy is with us every minute of every day. From the electricity to power your alarm clock, to its case and the electronic components that make it work, oil and natural gas played a part. From the hot shower that starts your day, to the power to run the dishwasher that cleans the dishes after dinner, energy makes it happen.

Energy is so thoroughly woven into our daily lives that few question whether it will continue to be there, or even where it comes from. But they should. We should all questions policies that put at risk the foundational sources of energy that make possible the products and the standard of living we’ve come to enjoy.

What we want and what the American people deserve is energy policy that continues the trend of our nation becoming energy self-sufficient and THE global energy leader.

The decisions our country makes when it comes to our collective way forward on energy policy will determine the course of our nation’s economic and environmental future for generations to come. And I believe that the best future is rooted in an all-of-the-above energy strategy.

We have a once in a generation opportunity to find solutions for many of today’s most pressing issues, including creating middle class jobs, tackling income inequality, ensuring sustained affordable energy for consumers and enhancing our national security. And for all of these goals, and others, the 21st century American energy renaissance offers a solution.

If we do that we will create a nation that remains second-to-none in energy production, economic prosperity and environmental leadership.

A legacy that we all can be proud of. Thank you for your time.