API issues policy recommendations for the next US president

The next US president should implement policies that embrace America’s new energy abundance, are based on sound science and economics, and continue technological and economic progress which has been made, the American Petroleum Institute said.

The next administration also should avoid unnecessary duplicative regulations that could hamper efficient distribution by placing undue burdens on energy development and transportation, it said in its 2016 Principles for American Energy Progress.

The recommendations, which API is distributing to both major political parties’ presidential candidates and platform committees, also said policymakers should recognize that the best way to achieve domestic energy and environmental goals is through private investment and innovation, in cooperation with government at all levels.

“Our goal is to make clear that with the right energy policies in place, we can continue to help grow our economy and maintain our nation’s role as a global energy leader, even as the oil and gas industry [responds] to current market difficulties,” API Pres. Jack N. Gerard said at an Apr. 12 event where the recommendations were formally released.

“We want to ensure that all elected leaders, from both parties and from across the nation, understand how far we’ve come in a short time and how much further we can go with the right energy policies,” he maintained.

This year’s elections will be the only chance for voters to effectively express dissatisfaction with Congress and the president’s performances, said US Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who also spoke at the event. “We haven’t done much,” he declared. “Even though we face a $19 trillion deficit, nobody is talking about it. We haven’t started to put our finances in order.”

Public education is needed

The general public does not grasp energy issues and needs to be better educated, said Manchin, who is a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee member. “We haven’t done a darn thing so far. Hardly anyone knows what a baseload is. Everyone wants renewables, but they only can supply 20% of our electrical needs. Fossil fuels need to supply the rest,” he said.

“Energy won’t become an issue until rolling brownouts start to happen,” Manchin warned. “Then voters will start asking politicians why they let this happen.”

Four more speakers discussed whether energy could become an issue during the 2016 elections. “It puzzles me why the populist streak running through both parties doesn’t recognize how many jobs the energy industry could create with the right policies,” said former US Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.) who now is a senior policy advisor at the law firm Van Ness Feldman LLP in Washington. “I hope this report and others like it will help more people understand how much could be done by turning to this industry.”

“We clearly are in a different world,” said American Action Forum Pres. Douglas Holtz-Eakin. “There’s open conflict in the Middle East, yet crude oil prices aren’t $100/bbl. The American public doesn’t understand what a big change this is…It used to be that when you wanted to measure consumer confidence, you looked at gasoline prices. That’s no longer the case. Prices are down, but consumers don’t seem very confident.”

“People give very little thought to why their electricity bills are so low,” observed Heather Zichal, who formerly was deputy assistant to US President Barack Obama for energy and climate change. “One camp wants to go entirely to renewable energy sources, but it’s not going to happen overnight. The other wants to shut [the US Environmental Protection Agency] down. We need to take a second look at regulations which were written when things were very different.”

“It’s important that people are educated about energy issues,” said Kyle Isakower, API’s vice-president for regulatory and economic policy. “We see so much extreme misinformation out there about hydraulic fracturing and other processes. I think the only time people talk about energy is when prices go up.”

An untold story

Landrieu said that little has been said about what depressed oil and gas prices have done to communities in Colorado, Louisiana, North Dakota, and other producing states. “When prices are this low, it takes energy off the political table. But there are local recessions in these states,” she said.

“There are more women and minorities in the energy industry than most people realize,” Landrieu continued. “Once they leave for other jobs, many won’t come back. It would be worthwhile to provide some help for these displaced workers.”

Isakower suggested, “If there’s a positive aspect to where prices are now, it’s that US companies have retrenched and become more efficient.”

Asked whether climate change will be a bigger factor in the 2016 elections, the speakers provided different answers. “Things have changed since 2008 when it wasn’t a big issue,” said Zichal. “I don’t think anyone predicted back then how stark the divide would be today. Going forward, I think the Republican presidential nominee will have to moderate his position from what he said during the primaries.”

Holtz-Eakin disagreed. “There’s a very large part of the Republican base which believes greenhouse gas regulation is the literal elite trying to tell them how to run their businesses,” he said. “That’s not going to change.”

Isakower said that surveys show climate change won’t be a very big election issue this year. “Maybe not climate change, but people are starting to get concerned about rising sea levels and flooding from severe weather,” Landrieu said. “That could make more people want to start finding some common ground. But I don’t think anyone who’s elected president can straighten out Congress.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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