The time has come for people in the oil and gas business — especially its senior executives and those who do government affairs work within the larger companies — to wake up to the reality of the Democratic Party as it exists today, as exemplified by its current crop of presidential contenders and caucuses in both houses of Congress.
Simply put, this is not your father’s Democratic Party.
Gone are the days when there existed a subset of fairly moderate Democratic members of Congress in both the House and Senate who could be classified as strong supporters of the oil and gas industry. There are no more Mary Landrieus in today’s United States Senate, nor even a Heidi Heitkamp to be found. In the House, you still have one identifiable Democrat — Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar, who can be said to be a real supporter of the oil and gas industry, but that’s pretty much it. And even Rep. Cuellar was so cowed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he cast a “yes” vote to impeach the most pro-oil and gas president in U.S. history on the flimsiest grounds imaginable in December.
Gone are the days when a startup industry trade association, America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), could be effective by hiring a former Clinton operative to be its president and hiring a raft of pro-Democrat contractors to shape its messaging. ANGA, created at the outset of the Obama Administration in early 2009, was able to quickly become a force for promoting the benefits of natural gas using that model a decade ago. A decade later, pretty much none of the Democrat senators and congressmen with whom ANGA formed effective working relationships remain in Congress. All have been replaced by Republicans, or by more radical left-wing, anti-oil and gas members.
While ANGA and other industry trade associations were able to form working relationships with many Democrats of the time — even in those years, those Democrats could not be counted on for industry support on the truly big votes. ANGA and the rest of the industry, for example, were unable to secure a single Democratic vote during the battle over the national carbon cap-and-trade bill that barely failed in 2010.
I know all of this to be true because I was intimately involved in ANGA’s work during those years when I was Director of Government Affairs at El Paso Corporation. Working to form those relationships with Democrats in Congress made sense at the time since a number of them really were pro-oil and gas, at least to some extent, and because there was a Democratic administration in place that was decidedly hostile to the industry’s interests.