Energy where and how to get it, and how to use it is an issue that provokes intense, even heated, emotional debate across our country. And, as in any debate, there is a natural desire to find villains.
That is unfortunate, because in seeking to assign blame we avoid searching for real solutions.
Unfortunately, this desire to find villains forces us to ignore the fact that the people and the companies who provide us with the energy that keeps America going strong perform a valuable service to our society.
In looking for and delivering the energy American consumers, businesses and manufacturers need, these companies spend billions of dollars to search for new supplies, investing $2.4 trillion in U.S. capital projects in the past 12 years.
And they support 9.2 million American jobs, including more than 275,000 in Pennsylvania. The wages paid by many of those jobs exceed the national average. For instance, the average salary for nonretail Pennsylvania oil and natural gas employees is almost $23,000 more than the average annual salary for all industries in the state ($43,325). And U.S. oil and natural gas companies pay more than $86 million to the federal government in taxes and production fees every single day.
The earnings of U.S. oil and natural gas companies are shared by the millions of Americans through their individual investments in these companies and through their 401(k), pension or other retirement plans. These include police officers, firefighters, teachers and others as part of their states public employee pension plans.
A 2011 study by Sonecon LLC, a private firm led by former Clinton White House economic adviser Robert J. Shapiro, examined several states pension plan investments and found that the returns from their investments in oil and natural gas companies performed significantly better than their other assets.
In Pennsylvania, for example, the oil and natural gas investments by the states two largest public pension plans accounted for 3.4 percent of their total assets but contributed 8.6 percent of their total gains between 2005 and 2009.
Finally, oil and natural gas companies are solid corporate citizens, supporting communities, schools and universities across the country. And they are among the largest investors in wind, solar, biofuel and other green energy ventures. Between 2000 and 2010 they invested more than $7.1 billion in low-carbon technologies.
The good news is that, as poll after poll demonstrates, most Pennsylvanians like most Americans recognize the value of this vital industry to their lives. They understand that when their elected officials cast their votes with Americas oil and natural gas industry on important issues, they are voting for more American-made energy, more American jobs, more revenue for our government, more robust retirement plans for millions of Americans and more investments in Americas communities and our environment.
Stephanie Catarino Wissman is executive director of the Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania, a division of the American Petroleum Institute ( www.api.org).