A Delaware Valley union leader took a star turn in a pitch for cooperation between the energy industry and the Biden administration presented by the industry’s largest largest trade association.

In a Zoom-friendly State of American Energy virtual report Wednesday, the American Petroleum Institute (API) made the case that the gas and oil sectors are a critical force in any economic recovery. Mike Sommers, president and CEO of API highlighted the more than 10 million jobs – both union and non-union – supported by the industry as well as its other economic contributions. Jim Snell, business manager of the Steamfitters 420 in southeast Pennsylvania, testified to those ideas as well.

“I’ve been the business manager of Steamfitters local 420 since April of 2019. And just in that short period of time, there’s been quite a few projects related to the oil and gas industry,” Snell said. “One of them being the Mariner Pipeline project. A lot of the time [my members are] working overtime, making good wages, being able to buy their first homes, being able to send kids to college. It has a direct effect on my members.”

As for the economic impact in Pennsylvania, an API report released in 2017 found the oil and gas industry created “322,600 jobs in the state and contributed $44.46 billion to the state’s economy in 2015.”

“It also has a direct effect on my benefit plans for the Steamfitters health and welfare funds — my pension funds, my annuity,” Snell added.

The API presentation also countered claims the energy industry isn’t doing its part in combating climate change.

“We’ve become conditioned to pit using energy against making environmental progress,” Sommers said. “Yet history has shown this is a false choice: both developing energy and reducing emissions are essential to advance our society and protect the environment.”

“No other nation has cut CO2 emissions more than the U.S. since 2000,” the report states. “Even progressive climate plans include a critical role for natural gas in advancing sustainable technologies. Fuel switching from coal to natural gas has accounted for about 61 percent of reduced carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector since 2005.”

President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to rejoin the Paris climate treaty as soon as possible after he takes office. Throughout his campaign, both he and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris made broad, sweeping promises about shutting down industries that contribute to climate change.

Knowing that it faces a hostile Congress, API rebutted unrealistic promises and “declared collective goals at signing ceremonies” regarding climate change. Sommers challenged Congress to look honestly at what the industry has achieved.

“Over the last decade, we achieved the largest-ever decline in energy-related greenhouse gas emissions,” Sommers said. “This almost didn’t happen. If policymakers had restricted access to developing oil and natural gas in hopes of addressing climate change, emissions would have been greater than what actually happened.”

For example, the 2010 American Clean Energy and Security Act pledged to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 10 percent below 2007 levels using a national cap-and-trade system. The Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate refused to take up the legislation — which is similar to the California cap-and-trade policy that even environmental activists concede is failing.

And yet through industry-led innovations and without the government mandate, API reports those emissions are down nearly 15 percent.

“We haven’t been waiting on guidance or on order from others,” Sommers said. “We have done with all on our own initiative … We’ve exceeded goals that even the most heavy-handed regulators wanted to impose on us.”

Sommers pointedly reached out to the incoming administration, offering partnership rather than opposition.

“President Biden will lead our nation at a time of abundant American energy development, strengthened security, lower household energy costs, and record performance on emissions reductions,” Sommers said. “We stand ready to work together with lawmakers and the administration to usher in policies that accelerate U.S. investment and American job creation, deliver reliable energy and fewer emissions, and support America’s economic recovery.”

“Whether our critics admit it or not, our industry is a driver of technology progress against greenhouse gas emissions, among other environmental challenges,” he added. “It is our technology that is making all the difference and we’re pointing the way forward.”