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During these challenging economic times, there are plenty of facts and figures to show how the U.S. oil and natural gas industry is creating jobs and economic opportunity across the United States. But just as powerful, I think, are the real-life stories from where the job growth is actually taking place. And it’s happening in places you might not expect.

On Thursday, the Department of Energy released the first of two reports from the panel established by the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) to make recommendations regarding safe and environmentally responsible shale gas development. The report rightly acknowledges the importance of shale gas development and steps taken by industry to protect groundwater. Some of the report’s other conclusions and recommendations, however, lead me to think the panel would have benefited from additional time to study the issues rather than being held to an arbitrary 90-day deadline.

Although today’s jobs report is slightly more encouraging than generally expected, most Americans would agree that it’s nowhere near enough. Many are asking “how can we create more jobs?” It’s not an easy question. But one obvious place to start would be to encourage sectors in which jobs are already growing – including the U.S. oil and natural gas industry.

Yesterday, ExxonMobil announced its second-quarter results – recording earnings of $10.7 billion. And while commentators talk about the contribution of this result to the company’s bottom line, it’s also important to note that it’s good for America’s bottom line, too. As I’ve talked about in previous posts, ExxonMobil contributes billions into the U.S. economy through federal and state taxes, royalties, jobs and capital projects while helping ensure continued supply of energy for U.S. consumers and businesses.