Nearly 70 American oil and natural gas workers from 15 states are on Capitol Hill this week to talk with policymakers about the potential of America's vast shale gas resources and the importance of a strong domestic oil and natural gas industry to the nation's economic future and job creation. Geologists, petroleum engineers, landmen, rig workers and others from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, Indiana, Texas, Louisiana, Ohio and beyond -- all active, contributing members of their communities and their states -- are taking the opportunity to talk about the industry's capacity to grow jobs and produce the energy needed to drive our nation's economy.
API President and CEO Jack Gerard said the fly-in, the fourth in a series to introduce lawmakers to the hard-working women and men employed by America's oil and natural gas industry, is particularly important now as Congress considers policies that may impact these workers' livelihoods.
"Congress, in the coming months, will be working on a host of issues that could impact the oil and natural gas industry," Gerard said. "It's good for lawmakers to hear from their constituents, who are among the 9.2 million Americans who depend on the oil and natural gas industry for their jobs, and understand how energy policy might affect their lives and their communities."
For Carlos Dengo, vice president of geoscience for ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company, the fly-in is about "the opportunity to bring our story to Washington. It's about who we are in the oil and natural gas industry, what we do and how we do it." Dengo, a 27-year veteran of ExxonMobil, noted that many people don't understand that the oil and natural gas industry is a high-tech industry that makes the environment, health and safety its highest priorities.
"One example of how innovation has shaped the nation's energy future is shale gas. Up until a few years ago, we weren't even close to recognizing its enormous potential in this country. Technological breakthroughs and finding ways to use old technology in new ways have made it possible for vast quantities of clean-burning natural gas to be discovered. Developing and producing this resource is going to mean lots of good jobs and reliable, clean energy," Dengo said.
The nation's shale gas resource is available thanks to advances in extended-reach drilling and the proven and safe 60-year-old-technology of hydraulic fracturing, which involves pumping a mixture of sand and water deep into the reservoir to make small fissures in the shale rock to allow the trapped natural gas to escape. "This is an exciting time to be in the oil and gas industry as we address the challenges of providing America with new energy supplies, energy security, and economic growth," Dengo said. "I hope I can share that with the members of Congress I meet."
Parker Drilling's Janell Mickelson believes it is critical that Congress understand how important the oil and natural gas is to the nation's economy. "The other day my six-year-old son, who's learning to read, recently noticed where many of his toys were made. He asked me why everything is made in China. It made me think about the industry and the policies in place that discourage development here at home," said Mickelson, who works in operations for the drilling service company. "Even though we use advanced technologies to minimize environmental impacts and access resources, we face tax increases and a lack of access to federal lands that force us to buy more oil and natural gas from abroad. Like every American, I'm concerned about high energy costs, about paying for my commute, about making ends meet. I'm more concerned about my son's and daughter's futures and the opportunities that they will have domestically. I'm the third generation in my family to benefit from a career in the oil and gas industry, and I'm proud that it's afforded me the chance to live the American dream -- to work hard, provide for my family, and contribute back to my community."
Mickelson, who only recently started with Parker Drilling after losing a job last year during the economic recession, says it is imperative that lawmakers understand that the oil and natural gas industry supports millions of jobs and can create even more if policies are in place to allow more development. "I know what it feels like to have lost a job," she said. "Now isn't the time to impose taxes on the industry or institute other policies that will make it more difficult for American companies to compete in the global market. We need to create more jobs here, not send them abroad."
Mickelson also wants to let policymakers know how committed the industry is to new technology and the environment. "As a young girl listening to oil patch stories over Christmas dinner, I always had the impression that the oil and gas industry was 'big boys with big toys' but I've learned differently. It's about technologies like extended-reach drilling, advanced rig designs and extensive safety training, all geared toward reducing the environmental impact of drilling while creating optimal performance." For example, she said, Parker Drilling has been contracted by BP for work in the Liberty field of Alaska's Beaufort Sea. "This project is expected to set multiple records," she said. "It is located six miles offshore in arctic waters, but we'll be using ultra extended-reach drilling, guided by 3D seismic imagery, to allow development with the least environmental impact. It's these type of accomplishments and future projects that keep me interested, motivated, and determined to work hard for my family, my company, and continue to embrace the American dream."
Oil and natural gas workers participating in the fly-in are from Alaska, California, Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming. Many are available for media interviews.
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