Five things the energy sector needs to hear at the RNC

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At the Republican National Convention in Tampa, the economy and energy are front-and-center issues.

And to many of the thousands of party faithful attending the four-day event, they are increasingly tied together.

American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard said that marks a change from earlier this year, when voters didn’t have energy on their mind.

Now, he says, “the public understands that energy development will assist economic recovery in the form of new high-paying jobs.”

That’s good news for energy companies and their employees who want to hear politicians on the national stage commit to strategies for growing their business, be it oil and gas or solar and wind power.

Here’s a look at what some parts of the energy sector want to hear from Republican speakers, presumed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan this week.

You like us, you really like us

Oil and gas interests want to know that they are appreciated — and that the tax breaks they enjoy won’t be targeted for elimination by a Romney-Paul White House. President Barack Obama has repeated asked Congress to spike an array of tax deductions and incentives reserved for oil and gas producers.

But it isn’t just fossil fuels that want some love. Wind producers want to hear GOP leaders commit to extending the production tax credit that they credit with helping to stand up wind farms nationwide. The credit expires at the end of this year unless Congress renews it. Romney would allow it to expire, part of a strategy he has said on the campaign trail would mean an end to government “picking winners and losers.”

America is loaded

Oil and gas companies are using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques to extract previously unrecoverable fossil fuels out of tight or dense rock formations across the nation.

Some energy analysts say the technological advances mean the U.S. will be blessed with plenty of natural gas for years to come. And, thanks to existing policies , oil imports are projected to decline to about a third of the United States’ total consumption over the next two decades, according to the government’s Energy Information Administration.

But plenty of people are still skeptical, including lawmakers on Capitol Hill who are wary of a new round of boom-or-bust cycles with natural gas, which has ridden a price roller coaster in the past. Oil and gas industry allies want to hear Republicans hail the nation’s newfound abundance.

They also want speakers at the RNC to tie the burgeoning energy development in such places as Pennsylvania and North Dakota to the economy.

“It’s hard for any candidate or party to deny the positive contribution of domestic energy production,” said Jeff Eshelman, a spokesman for the Independent Petroleum Association of America. “With the advent of shale oil and gas, energy productioin is now taking place in states that aren’t traditionally in the oil patch.”

Giving the sector more access

Oil and gas industry advocates have complained that the Obama administration is “locking up” valuable resources both on land and offshore. (Interior Department officials dispute that and say they’ve taken steps to reduce permitting delays and lawsuits that have stymied onshore development).

On the campaign trail, Romney has said promised to expand drilling; last week, he unveiled a 21-page white paper that detailed an energy agenda and plans to give states more power over oil and gas permitting on federal lands in their borders.

Cut the red tape

Coal-fired power plants and refiners have chafed at environmental regulations they say are handcuffing them — and they are looking to political leaders in Washington to remove the chains. Environmentalists, meanwhile, point out that some promised regulations have been delayed or eased in the face of industry concerns.

Gerard said RNC speakers will focus on the regulatory threat.

“I think you’re going to hear about regulation,” Gerard said. “You’re going to hear about a difference in philosophy about the role of the regulatory structure as it might inhibit or promote oil and gas in this country.”

And “it’s all going to be tied to jobs,” Gerard added.

We don’t have a national energy policy — but we should

For decades, U.S. presidents have been complaining that the nation lacks a comprehensive energy policy and pledging that one will be enacted under their watch.

It hasn’t happened, but it doesn’t stop presidential candidates from delivering that promise on the campaign trail.

L.R. “Jamie” Jamison Jr., a project manager at ExxonMobil Development Co., and a Texas GOP delegate from the Houston area, said he wants to hear candidates’ commitment to build a national energy policy — even if the odds are stacked against them.

“I want them to get an energy plan,” he said.