API President Talks Climate Changes, Minority Hiring in Oil and Gas Industry

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Like just about everyone else, the oil and natural gas industry has felt the sting of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the national trade association that represents the field still forecasts a bright future.

On Oct. 7, Mike Sommers, the president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute (API), spoke with National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO, Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., during a live interview broadcast over several social media channels.

“This is a difficult time economically for all Americans, but also the global oil and gas industry,” stated Sommers, the 15th chief executive of the American Petroleum Institute (API).

API counts as the largest national trade association representing all aspects of America’s natural gas and oil industry.

“As a consequence of the pandemic, demand has gone down. People are no longer commuting, and, as an industry, we need to focus on getting the economy moving again so people can get back to work,” Sommers told Chavis.

“We need to get through the pandemic, and Congress needs to focus on how to get the economy back, and you can’t get that going until you get rid of COVID-19.”

Since his appointment in July 2018, Sommers has overseen the strategic realignment of API’s priorities and advocacy efforts, introducing an integrated organizational structure and core API Principles.

Among other initiatives, he has led the adoption of the industry’s solutions-oriented position on climate change, the development of an industrywide narrative to broaden the sector’s base of support, and the increased utilization and visibility of API standards and safety programs.

During the live broadcast with the NNPA, Sommers tackled several topics, including energy accessibility, environmental progress, the key advantages of working in the natural gas and oil industry, and energy costs.

Sommers called climate change one of the most critical issues of this generation.

“To address the key issue of climate change, at API, we recognize climate change is real. And, man and humans are contributing to changing the climate. We focus on making sure our industry is doing everything it can to address this societal problem that needs to be addressed on both the governmental and individual levels.

“It’s one of the biggest existential issue that we’ve had to deal with over many, many decades.”

When asked about API’s position on the Black Lives Matter movement, which this summer reminded everyone about America’s shortcomings in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion, Sommers noted how the oil and gas industry actively seeks African Americans for high-paying and sustainable career opportunities.

He pointed to estimates suggesting that by the year 2035, Hispanics and African Americans will hold nearly 40 percent of the 1.9 million direct jobs in the industry.

According to API officials, the magnitude of those opportunities reflects the continued importance of the oil and natural gas and petrochemical industries in the United States economy as a whole and to individuals and families looking for well-paying opportunities.

“I want Black America to know that API and the oil and natural gas industry are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Sommers remarked. “We are keenly focused on making sure that all Americans have access to affordable, reliable energy.”

Sommers continued:

“API is not just an advocacy organization, it’s a standard-setting organization for the oil and gas industry. We provide those standards for free to HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), so, if you are a college student at an HBCU and are interested in the oil and gas business, you are not learning those standards on day 1 when you walk into a company; you are learning them at your HBCU so you are prepared.”

Sommers added that API is proud of its relationship with HBCUs, and the organization has designs to grow its commitment to those institutions. “We expect people of color to fill many of the jobs of the future in the oil and gas industry, and we want to make sure people of color are prepared,” Sommers declared.

“If we give people of color a leg up, we know they are going to be successful as they grow their career throughout the oil and gas industry.”

Chavis said he enjoyed the conversation with Sommers.

“On behalf of the NNPA, representing the Black Press of America, it was uplifting to hear from and to be engaged with, Mike Sommers, the President and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, during our livestreamed interview,” Chavis stated.

“Given my long career in environmental justice and equality issues, it was gratifying to hear the on-the-record commitments of Sommers’s leadership addressing the issues of improving the environment for all people, and in particular, for African Americans and other people of color. We look forward to continuing to build upon our ongoing productive relationship with API across the United States.”

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