Turning attention from the war in Afghanistan and health care reform, President Obama on Thursday highlighted the nation’s economy and employment situation through a jobs summit that was met with mostly positive reviews from the energy industry.

In his speech Obama noted that while government “has a critical role in creating the conditions for economic growth, ultimately true economic recovery is only going to come from the private sector. As a result, he is interested in “taking action right now to help businesses create jobs right now, in the near term.”

Organizations such as America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) commended Obama for convening the “timely forum.” The group noted that in the Marcellus Shale, stretching from Kentucky to New York, abundant resources of natural gas are expected to create 98,000 jobs in Pennsylvania by 2010 while generating $800 million in state and local tax revenues, according to a recent Penn State University study.

“In addition, newfound natural gas supplies in the Barnett Shale in Texas are expected to add one million years of employment in natural gas industry jobs in Texas and $100 billion to the state’s economy through 2015, according to a March 2009 study released by the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.”

But, more could be done with the right incentives. The American Petroleum Institute (API) noted that the Obama administration has missed an opportunity at its jobs summit by “not actively engaging the oil and natural gas industry – an industry that supports 9.2 million American jobs and is poised to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs with the right public policies.”

During a media teleconference held before the jobs summit, API Chairman Larry Nichols and API President and CEO Jack Gerard outlined how the oil and natural industry — which represents 7.5 percent of gross domestic product — is ready, willing and able to create new jobs and provide the energy that America needs to sustain a successful economic recovery.

“Clearly, the White House missed an opportunity to include one of the biggest employers and wealth creators in the nation,” said Nichols, who is CEO of Devon Energy Corp. “We know what it takes to create a job, and we know what it takes to preserve a job.”

Gerard added: “We are not asking for any handouts. We don’t need stimulus dollars or subsidies. We just need access to develop the resources we will need to fuel this economy and create thousands of new jobs. Access is essential to produce the energy this country needs.”

Gerard, who noted that the oil and gas industry is already one of the largest creators of green jobs, said the industry invested $58.4 billion in carbon mitigation technologies between 2000 and 2008, more than any other private industries or the federal government. Using a measure by the Center for American Progress that 2 million jobs are created for each $100 billion invested, the oil and gas industry has created nearly 1.2 million green jobs, he said.

Gerard and Nichols added that new taxes and ill-conceived climate change proposals are job killers and discourage the development of domestic energy. “Our industry does not operate in a vacuum,” Nichols said. “It is integrated with all other industries. Huge tax increases lessen our ability to create jobs. Our industry can’t prosper unless all the other industries and the consumers prosper. Higher taxes destroy jobs and impair our economy.”

In a letter sent to the White House ahead of the forum, the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) applauded the president’s recognition of the unemployment problem. “The American natural gas and oil industry continues to be one of the most powerful and dynamic forces of job creation in the nation,” said Bruce Vincent, IPAA chairman and president of Swift Energy. “IPAA is encouraged that the president is bringing together a broad spectrum of thinkers, policymakers and stakeholders…at the White House to address one of the greatest concerns facing American families and businesses, including so many of our members: jobs. With unemployment at a 26-year high – and projected to climb even higher – the responsible conversion of America’s abundant energy resources into jobs, revenues and opportunities for American workers should serve as a centerpiece of that discussion.”

The Industrial Energy Consumers of America (IECA) in a letter thanked Obama for his focus and said it believes the top priority should be financial incentives for the manufacturing sector that will create capital investment in energy efficiency and productivity, which will result in job creation. One of IECA’s suggestions it to require electric utility companies to purchase power produced by the manufacturing sector using combined heat and power (CHP) or recycled energy.

This type of power is produced at 80% energy efficiency, while electric utility efficiencies are only about 32%. The IECA said it’s a “win-win” situation by increasing jobs and significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, adding that the U.S. Department of Energy has said that increasing CHP/recycled energy power supply from 9% to 20% of the grid by 2030 would avoid 60% of the growth of U.S. GHG emission.

ANGA CEO Regina Hopper said the natural gas industry stands ready to do its part on jobs creation. “As we look for innovative solutions, clean, abundant North American natural gas can play a central role creating U.S. jobs and powering a green energy economy for our nation. The natural gas industry employs nearly three million Americans. These economic opportunities are spread throughout our country and, most importantly, they are growing today despite the challenging economic climate,” she said.

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