It was surprising that the American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard didn’t take more of a victory lap at his annual address laying out what’s in store for the oil industry in 2016. The lobby just won a key 2015 priority—Congress lifted the 40-year-old crude oil export ban in December.
Gerard only brought up the win briefly in his prepared remarks to an audience of industry executives. Instead, his speech focused on the environmental movement’s successes last year; namely, the Keystone XL pipeline and the campaign to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
“There are an ardent few who continue to believe that keeping our nation’s abundant energy resources in the ground is a credible and viable national energy strategy,” Gerard warned. At another point, he insisted they are blocking key, necessary infrastructure for ensuring long-term oil supply: “The demonization of the Keystone XL pipeline remains a powerful cautionary tale of the dangers of energy policy driven by ideology rather than economic reality and has a chilling effect on expansion efforts for our nation’s energy infrastructure.”
In an election year it makes sense Gerard would focus more on the political battles ahead, rather than the policy battles that won’t see much movement. Yet environmentalists should also take this as an encouraging sign that their strategy, to block the infrastructure needed to extract and ship fossil fuels, is smart. They have the oil lobby’s attention.