The oil and gas industry's main trade group pledged Tuesday to flex its muscle in the 2014 elections as it called on lawmakers to support "pro-growth energy policies."
"Elections matter," said American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard at the group's annual policy event in Washington. "The collective decisions of the 2014 voters will shape whether — and the extent to which — our nation fulfills its potential as an energy superpower."
Gerard said his organization's messaging and actions for the midterm elections would focus on facilitating more drilling, approving the controversial Keystone XL oil sands pipeline from Canada and ending restrictions on oil and gas exports, saying doing so would add jobs, increase federal revenues and strengthen energy security.
API donated overwhelmingly to Republicans in 2012 — $156,600 of its $199,100 in political action committee contributions to national candidates went to Republicans, according to OpenSecrets.org.
"We support all political candidates that support oil and natural gas," Gerard said.
Many Democrats have railed against the industry, especially when it comes to climate change. A network of green groups, chiefly the League of Conservation Voters, have pledged to make climate change a major policy issue in 2014.
On climate change, Gerard said natural gas can help, as electric utilities have switched from coal to cheap, cleaner-burning natural gas to push U.S. carbon emissions to a 20-year low.
"Our hope is that this will be a time when we can change the past and look currently at the facts and reality that is taking place," Gerard told reporters.
Apart from climate change, Democrats also have pushed to end some of the $4 billion in annual tax incentives the industry enjoys. A draft tax code overhaul floated by Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., would do away with many of those provisions — a move API says would stymie production by removing business deductions afforded to other industries.
Taking a cue from Democrats' election-year messaging for 2014, which figures to include an emphasis on income inequality and minimum wage laws, Gerard said the average upstream oil and gas worker earns seven times the federal minimum wage.
"In my view, it would be unforgivable if this country were to abandon or ignore its responsibility to future generations by missing this opportunity based on flawed science, outdated assumptions and political orthodoxy," Gerard said.
The speech comes at a time when the United States is flush with new domestically produced oil and gas as a result of the shale energy boom.
The U.S. produced more oil than it imported in October for the first time in nearly 25 years. U.S. oil output will lead the world by next year, according to the International Energy Agency. And oil production will near a record in 2016, hitting 9.5 million barrels per day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. And while U.S. companies were planning to build liquefied natural gas import terminals in the 2000s, natural gas production has soared to the point where companies are rushing to build export facilities.
Gerard said more can be done at the federal level to loosen restrictions on oil and gas — including ending a ban on crude oil exports, approving the Keystone pipeline and more quickly permitting liquefied natural gas exports.
The oil and gas industry, along with Republicans and some centrist Democrats, contend recent developments in the sector have occurred in spite of President Obama's policies.
The White House, however, has taken credit for the current energy landscape and maintain that drillers already have access to a bulk of the nation's recoverable offshore and onshore resources.
And while the oil and gas industry has pushed the administration to open more federal land to drilling, most of the nation's lucrative shale plays — such as the Bakken formation in North Dakota and Montana — are on private and state lands.