Top industry lobbyist says US oil and gas production could grow even more

Jack Gerard, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, speaks at a Houston Chronicle editorial board meeting June 18, 2013.

Jack Gerard, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, speaks at a Houston Chronicle editorial board meeting June 18, 2013.

American Petroleum Institute chief Jack Gerard said Tuesday that U.S. gas prices and the unemployment rate would be higher if not for the tremendous growth in oil production in America over the last few years.

Gerard asserted during a meeting with the Houston Chronicle editorial board that keeping those measures from worsening is as important  as creating a jobs boom and reducing pump prices.

“Think of what the unemployment rate would be if we didn’t have the job growth we are already seeing,” Gerard said. “We need to put it in context and think how much worse it would have been if not for what has been happening over the last four or five years.”

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During his eight years in the White House, former President George W. Bush invoked a standard refrain during each of his State of the Union addresses:  America is way too dependent on foreign oil.

In his 2005 address, at a time when the unemployment rate was at 5.2 percent and the country had just come off a year in which 2.3 million new jobs were created, Bush said enacting his pro-energy industry policies was “essential to expand this economy and add new jobs.”

Eight years later, the U.S. is producing record amounts of oil, energy firms are expanding their operations and the country is on a path to one day in the not too distant future becoming energy independent. Yet, the unemployment rate is at 7.6 percent and the country, through the first five months of the year, is on pace to add only about 2 million jobs in 2013.

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Gerard argued that there exists today a great opportunity to make the promises of the past come true. He urged the current administration to stand with the industry, rather than against it.

“If you want to see the energy performance of the world today, you need only come to the United States, and specifically, you come to Houston,” Gerard said.

He also made a familiar API argument that while oil is being produced at a record pace in America, the tide could easily turn if lawmakers get in the way.  He applied the medical world’s “first do no harm” mantra to the U.S. government’s regulation of the oil and gas industry.

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Gerard said the progress of recent years could explode even further if the industry is allowed to search for oil and gas in more places.

“We’re not as far along as we ought to be,” he said.