Mike Sommers: Driving API’s Vision for Energy Innovation

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Shale cover, Mike Sommers

Amidst the ever-evolving landscape of energy production and environmental responsibility, one figure stands at the forefront: Mike Sommers, President of the American Petroleum Institute (API). In an exclusive interview, Sommers unveils API’s strategic initiatives, navigating the delicate balance between industry interests and societal concerns. 

Join us as we delve into the dynamic world of energy innovation and discover how API, under Sommers’ leadership, is shaping the future of sustainable American energy.

What is The American Petroleum Institute (API)?

The American Petroleum Institute (API) is the largest trade association for the oil and natural gas industry in the United States. API provides a voice to nearly all facets of America’s oil and natural gas industry, boasting nearly 600 members responsible for producing, processing, and distributing the nation’s energy. 

Established in 1919, API has been at the leading edge of setting industry standards and fostering innovation in order to enhance operational efficiencies and environmental sustainability practices. 

With a mission to promote safety globally and influence public policy in support of a robust U.S. oil and gas sector, API spearheads advocacy efforts while championing initiatives like API Energy Excellence®, which accelerates environmental and safety progress through technological advancements and transparent reporting. 

From conducting research and providing essential statistics to offering certification programs and organizing industry events, API is a pivotal force in shaping the present and future of energy production and regulation–both domestically and internationally.

API, mike sommersMeet Mike Sommers: President of API

Mike Sommers serves as the President of the API, bringing a wealth of experience in both the public and private sectors to this critical role. Before joining API, Sommers held various leadership roles, including Chief of Staff to former House Speaker John Boehner and Vice President of Government and Public Affairs at the American Investment Council. 

With a deep understanding of the nuances of modern energy policy and a rare zeal for advancing the interests of the oil and natural gas industry as a collective societal benefit, Sommers leads API in its efforts to promote responsible energy development and address critical challenges facing the industry.

Mike agreed to an interview with SHALE to get a peek behind the curtain and see where he sees the organization heading in the midst of so much global uncertainty in energy markets. Without further ado, here is Mike’s mission in his own words.

As President of API, what personal goals or initiatives do you prioritize to advance the organization’s mission, and how do you navigate potential conflicts between industry interests and broader societal concerns?

Sommers: API represents the people of America’s oil and natural gas. They keep the lights on and supply reliable, affordable energy today and for decades to come while driving environmental progress.

As a society, we have become conditioned to pitting energy production against environmental progress. Yet, history has shown that this is a false choice. Both developing energy and reducing emissions are essential to advance progress across the world and protect the environment. 

Securing America’s energy future has long been a point of unity. Presidents of both parties, going back to the 1970s, have focused on American energy security. They’ve advocated for strengthening U.S. energy leadership and reducing our nation’s dependence on foreign resources, including natural gas and oil.

Democratic, Independent, and Republican voters are practical folks and tend to appreciate that approach.

How does API reconcile its advocacy for fossil fuel development with growing concerns about climate change and the need for a renewable energy transition?

Sommers: Demand for affordable, reliable energy is growing. But we don’t have to choose between meeting that demand and addressing climate change. America’s oil and natural gas workers have proven we can do both.

U.S. emissions are down to generational lows, and production is up. Switching to natural gas from coal in the power sector has reduced carbon emissions by more than 50%, and U.S. average methane emissions intensity declined by 66 percent across the seven major producing regions from 2011 to 2021.

Taking action for the climate isn’t just passing unachievable regulatory mandates from on high. Those will not work. The market is choosing cleaner fuels, such as natural gas, and innovation is outpacing expectations to deliver more efficient solutions.

In light of increasing public scrutiny on environmental impact, what specific steps is API taking to ensure responsible and sustainable practices within the oil and gas industry?

Sommers: American companies have proven they can produce energy more cleanly and efficiently than just about anywhere in the world. This is why so many nations are adopting API’s environmental and safety standards. Brazil, India, and Ukraine are three recent examples where we’re building global relationships to deliver American environmental progress.

Meanwhile, API standards enhance the safety of industry operations. They assure quality and promote efficiency. They bring products to market quicker and avoid having to reinvent the wheel every time a product is manufactured. API has been a leader in creating world-class industry standards for 100 years.

We also created the API-led Environmental Partnership to share information and best practices about technological breakthroughs on methane – all to improve our understanding of emissions and innovations to reduce them.

 Finally, America has the energy to feed domestic markets and support our allies’ needs for U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG). We urge the Biden administration to permit new LNG facilities because one of the best things we can do for the environment is to offer allies more U.S. LNG to replace coal – which hit a global-demand record last year. 

With advancements in technology and shifting market dynamics, how does API envision the future role of shale oil and gas in the overall energy landscape?

 Sommers: Energy from every single American shale play is going to be needed for decades to come.

Americans will need the energy, and a growing world population will need a secure basis for their economic development. That includes more of all sources of energy. Demand for oil simply is not going down anytime soon. It boils down to a simple choice of who is going to produce it.

Will demand be met by our economic competitors and adversaries that may weaponize energy or use lesser environmental standards? Or will it be produced here in America, with high environmental and safety standards? 

It would be irresponsible for policymakers to look at these considerations and conclude America should increase our reliance on foreign energy – and 9 in 10 voters agree with us. As long as Washington’s leaders view American oil and natural gas as strategic assets, there will be a critical role for shale. 

How does API plan to collaborate with regulators, industry stakeholders, and local communities to address challenges facing the industry in the next 5-10 years? 

Sommers: It’s been more than 50 years since the Arab Oil Embargo. Back then, everyday Americans learned painful economic lessons about energy security and national security. It took 50 years of work to regain control of our energy advantage. It’s the Shale Revolution that deserves the credit for creating that advantage.

Unfortunately, our regulators in the Biden administration want to forfeit much of the ground we’ve gained. For example, they want unrealistic timelines, and government mandates to achieve 100% renewables and 100% full electric vehicles. These do not bolster our energy advantage. Instead, they benefit foreign minerals and supply chains.

Our adversaries have shown time and again their willingness to weaponize energy. We ignore their behavior at our peril. So that is our message to our regulators from local communities and industry stakeholders – do not let our adversaries or our allies see America weakening its energy advantage. 

American production continues to cushion supply shocks and price increases. Meanwhile, our allies are clamoring for more American energy to stabilize global energy markets in times of geopolitical instability. 

America’s energy leadership is an insurance policy against economic volatility and global unrest.

Where Does American Energy Go From Here?

Sommers embodies a commitment to balancing the dichotomy of meeting energy demands with the imperative of environmental stewardship. Through collaborative efforts and innovation, API is navigating this complex landscape in the present-day oil and natural gas industry, striving for those responsible practices that will drive real progress while simultaneously paying heed to pressing societal concerns. 

As the energy landscape continues to evolve, Sommers and API seem steadfast in their dedication to the advancement of a sustainable future, one that ensures that America’s energy leadership remains at the forefront of the conversation and plays a critical role in global energy stability and prosperity.

Be Informed, Not Influenced in the World of Energy News

EN Media Group, proud parent of SHALE Magazine, digs deep into the facts, people, places, and events that are shaping the great energy transition. To stay in the know about all things energy, be sure to check out our past issues and tune into our award-winning podcast, In the Oil Patch, where our intrepid host, Kym Bolado, talks one-on-one with the top names in energy today.

Tyler Reed

About the author: Tyler Reed began his career in the world of finance managing
a portfolio of municipal bonds at the Bank of New York Mellon. Four years later, he led the Marketing and Business Development team at a high-profile civil engineering firm. He had a focus on energy development in federal, state, and local pursuits. He picked up an Executive MBA from the University of Florida along the way. Following an entrepreneurial spirit, he founded a content writing agency. There, they service marketing agencies, PR firms, and enterprise accounts on a global scale. A sought-after television personality and featured writer in too many leading publications to list, his penchant for research delivers crisp and intelligent prose his audience continually craves.

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