January 17, 2018 at 11:07 AM
Jack Gerard announced Wednesday he would step down as head of the American Petroleum Institute, a powerful lobbying association representing a wide variety of oil and natural gas companies.
Gerard has been running API for 10 years, a period in which crude oil prices have lurched from less than $30 a barrel to $140 a barrel and back down again. The period covered the entire presidency of Barack Obama, a frequent target of Gerard’s over policy differences, and the first year of the Trump presidency, during which he pressed for a tax bill favorable to the industry.
He has pushed successfully for lifting restrictions on crude oil exports, speeding permits for natural gas export facilities and rapidly restarting of offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of the BP oil spill. He has also fought against higher taxes, the elimination of long-standing tax breaks for the industry, and the Dodd-Frank financial bill’s requirement that oil and mineral companies divulge overseas payments as part of an effort to foster transparency and discourage corruption.
Gerard is one of the highest paid association heads in Washington. In 2015 he earned $6.3 million from API and its affiliates in 2015, according to the Internal Revenue Service Form 990 for the group. He will remain until his contract ends in August.
“We have accomplished what few would have imagined: important public policy victories at all levels of government, and a revitalized association that has expanded globally and added significant strength to its advocacy capabilities,” Gerard said in a statement.
Yet many people both in and out of the oil industry have felt Gerard spent too much of the group’s money supporting Republicans. According to opensecrets.com, 85 percent of the money API gave to congressional candidates went to Republicans. Two prominent exceptions have been Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), whose state is a leading fracking state, and Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), whose state produces large amounts of coal.
API has a budget of about $250 million, and it has spent lavishly on public advertising campaigns. Often it has sought to conceal or minimize its role. It has advertised under names like “Energy Nation,” “Energy Citizens,” “EnergyTomorrow” or “the People of America’s Oil and Natural Gas Industry.” In the ads, ties to API are duly noted, albeit usually in small print.
The strategy, Gerard said in a 2012 interview, was to influence lawmakers by mobilizing their constituents.
“If we’re concerned about a particular member [of Congress], we will educate that constituency and encourage people to weigh in with their elected official,” he said. “Congress is a lagging indicator. Congress is responsive to the American people. That’s why a well-educated electorate is a key to sound policy.”
He has opposed many environmental regulations, though API issued its own guidelines for limiting methane emissions from fracking wells.
Raised in Mud Lake, Idaho, outside the 140-year-old Mormon stronghold of Idaho Falls, Gerard is the son of a John Deere salesman and a teacher. He graduated from George Washington University after finishing his mission work in Sydney. He worked for Idaho Republicans Rep. George Hansen and Sen. James A. McClure, the former chief of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, who pushed to privatize federal lands, promoted the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and was one of 11 senators to vote against the Clean Air Act of 1990.
After McClure retired, he and Gerard formed a lobbying firm. Gerard left that to run the National Mining Association and later the American Chemistry Council.