- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What does an American oil or natural gas company look like? It seems like a simple question. But to many policymakers in Washington, those responsible for delivering stable supplies of homegrown oil and gas essential to keep our economy fueled and energy prices stable for struggling families are all “big oil.” This common perception in Washington, and elsewhere, is wildly detached from the facts.

America’s independent oil and natural gas producers drill 90 percent of the nation’s wells. These companies employ, on average, just 12 workers. These are important facts. And while some independent producers are publicly traded companies, many are good old-fashioned family-run and -owned small businesses.

In a May speech in Buffalo, N.Y., President Obama said, “America’s small business owners have always been the backbone of America’s economy.” The president continued, underscoring the fact that “government can’t create jobs, but it can create the conditions for small businesses to grow and thrive and hire more workers.”

He’s right, absolutely, and he was right to add that “helping businesses to create jobs should be something that both parties can agree to.”

Unfortunately, rhetoric in Washington all too often is just that: rhetoric. Leaders in Congress and in the administration - with the tragic incident in the Gulf of Mexico fresh in the American electorate’s mind - are working aggressively to enact far-reaching policies and billion-dollar tax increases that will lead toward less stable energy costs, fewer jobs and increased dependence on unstable regions of the world for the energy we need.

The president’s moratorium on offshore energy development, for starters, is not only creating enormous amounts of uncertainty for our producers, but also driving rigs out of U.S. waters to other energy-producing nations overseas and compounding the economic fallout along the Gulf Coast.

Putting more job-creating American energy off-limits and discouraging the production of our homegrown oil and natural gas will only deepen our nation’s foreign energy dependence, leading to even more unstable prices for struggling consumers across the country.

Yet the Obama administration was undeterred by a recent federal court ruling that overturned its initial moratorium because of these grave consequences.

Leaders in the Gulf region - who understand better than anyone in Washington how critical the oil and natural gas industry is to our nation and their region’s economy - are continuing their fight for responsible offshore energy production and the thousands of jobs our industry supports.

Rep. Charles Boustany Jr., Louisiana Republican, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, says, “This moratorium is going to kill jobs at a time we need to be growing jobs, and it’s going to make us more dependent on foreign oil.” Rep. Charlie Melancon, Louisiana Democrat, who also serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, says, “The Obama administration is again turning a blind eye to the severe economic harm this moratorium is causing Louisiana’s workers and small businesses.”

The Gulf Coast’s senators - including Sens. Mary Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, John Cornyn, Texas Republican, and Roger Wicker, Mississippi Republican - are also working to pressure the administration to change course and reverse its call for a blanket offshore energy-production moratorium that will kill thousands of oil- and natural gas-related jobs.

Congress must undertake an exhaustive examination as to exactly what caused the Deepwater Horizon accident, and common-sense actions must be taken to help ensure that such incidents never occur again.

That said, the American people do not deserve double-talk, empty promises and soaring rhetoric about our nation’s energy security and the tens of thousands of good-paying jobs that America’s oil and natural gas industry supports and continues to create.

What the American people deserve, and what the Independent Petroleum Association of America will continue to fight for, is common-sense tax and regulatory solutions aimed at safely leveraging our nation’s resources into even more jobs, a stronger position in an increasingly competitive global economy and stable supplies of homegrown energy.

Bruce Vincent is chairman of the Independent Petroleum Association of America and president of Houston-based Swift Energy.

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