April 29

The Energy Question: Episode 98 – Gifford Briggs, Gulf Coast Region Director


The Energy Question: Episode 98 – Gifford Briggs, Gulf Coast Region Director

When the transcript becomes available, we will include it here. -Thank you!


David Blackmon [00:00:00] Have. Hey, welcome to the interview question with David Blackmon. I’m your host, David Blackmon, and my special guest today is a long time friend, Gifford Briggs, who I first met probably Watt Gifford 25 years ago. Gifford is the son of Don Briggs, and they both, ran the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, which, I’ve always felt was the most effective state based trade association in the country, for many years. And Gifford has more recently become the regional director for, for the biggest, oil and gas industry trade association, the American Petroleum Institute API, which is based in Washington. But Gifford has the lucky experience to be based in Tallahassee, Florida. Tell us about how beautiful that place is, Gifford.

Gifford Briggs [00:00:58] Yeah, tell ask these guys. Just saying that the headquarters based in DC, in a in a in a jungle up there. And I get to live in beautiful, sunshiny Florida and in Tallahassee and, the land of the free and home of the brave down here. So, yeah, you’ve got the Texas, you know, signs up behind you. So we’re we’re kindred spirits. We’ve you’ve got cowboys and, and, you know, we’ve got beaches, and.

David Blackmon [00:01:23] Alligators.

Gifford Briggs [00:01:24] Yeah.

David Blackmon [00:01:25] We both.

Gifford Briggs [00:01:25] Got lucky. There’s actually alligators. And we’ve got, we might have bigger snakes than they all do, at least down in the Everglades. But we both have freedom, and that’s a great thing. So.

David Blackmon [00:01:34] Yes, sir. Yes, sir. And, our industry is, a big reason why we all enjoy that freedom.

Gifford Briggs [00:01:40] Absolutely.

David Blackmon [00:01:42] Listen, man, before we get, what we get into the Q&A, tell folks what your role is at API and how you ended up there. Well, what was the path you took over there?

Gifford Briggs [00:01:53] Yeah, sure. So, I’m the Gulf Coast region director, which means I do state governmental affairs in the Gulf Coast region for API. We’ve got I cover five states Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. I joined API in 2020. Prior to me joining API was our state government affairs program was state based. And so there were state petroleum councils and about 30 states. And, as, as industries evolve, the issues have taken on more of a regional approach. So what’s happening in in Louisiana bleeds over to Mississippi. And so, the organization felt it was better to have, a few regions that were able to really look at the issues and how they apply across states and, and come up with solutions and plans to tackle those issues across the entire region. And so, I had a friend of mine, that, that shared this opportunity, that API was moving, and they were looking for a Gulf Coast region director. It was in the middle of, of Covid, which is not necessarily a good time to start a new role. But, you know, I had been with, with Logue at that time for right, about 13.5 years. And so it was it was, I think a good opportunity for me to, to to, take a next step and, and, you know, get outside the Louisiana oil and gas industry bubble, which I’ve been exposed to my whole life and, and, take that same passion I had for representing the industry in Louisiana, and see if I could bring it to other states and have a little bit broader perspective, which it’s it’s been fantastic. You know, I’ve learned a lot there’s a lot of different ways that our government does things in different states. There’s, you know, while Louisiana gets a bad rap, there’s a lot of things that Louisiana does really well from a legislative perspective. And so I’ve learned a lot about that. And just, you know, and it’s been interesting to see the different perspective that the world has on the energy industry that, you know, while trying to tackle the problems of Louisiana and making sure that Louisiana has an environment that’s conducive towards good oil and natural gas development. You don’t get to see some of the policies that are going on elsewhere in the country. And, it was it’s been a little bit shocking, to be fair, to, to see the perspective that people have, against the industry. And so it’s been a great experience. I love it, I love working for API. I love that I get to continue to fight for this great industry and the hard working men and women that make it up.

David Blackmon [00:04:21] Yeah. You know, the diversity of the state you represent is pretty incredible when it comes to oil and gas. I mean, well, I’ve had a lot of dealings in Florida in my career, and, it’s a much tougher place to be involved in the oil and gas business, although still a good place than than Louisiana or Mississippi. Alabama, you’ve got under your purview. You have a tremendous cross-section of what’s happening in the industry. From the upstream, the shale plays in the Haynesville and in Arkansas and, gas pipeline, the midstream business, a prolific piece of the midstream business and downstream refining and LNG exports, you’re covering covering the whole gamut there. Yeah, it’s a big issue.

Gifford Briggs [00:05:04] We get we get the Gulf of Mexico in there, and now we’ve got lithium. Mining stocks. And then, yeah, you know, we don’t do a whole lot of production here in Florida. But we consume an incredible amount of energy. And so, you know, it’s you I get to see, you know, all sides of the industry. And again, that’s that’s why I made the, you know, the change over APIs to be able to be involved in all of it. And it’s just been such a blessing.

David Blackmon [00:05:29] Yeah. Another thing that, Louisiana is going to be a real leader in, nationally is carbon capture and sequestration. Obviously, I mean, it’s just because of its geographical location and the geology underneath it, and various came out with a study last year that really says Louisiana may be an even bigger, piece of that particular puzzle than Texas is going to be as the years go by. Are you getting involved in anything related to that?

Gifford Briggs [00:05:59] Yeah. I mean, I like I, you know, interesting. I’ve started my involvement in CSS in Louisiana long back before I joined API, my good days and some of the initial legislation and back then working closely with Dan Barry, who was focused on the other side of the program, you know, and helping get the, you know, the policies in place. They built their green pipeline going all the way from from Mississippi down into Texas. You know, fortunately, Louisiana, you know, sort of looked around the bend and saw CCS coming and, the Department, Natural Resources and and Governor Edwards, I’ve got to give them credit. We’re very aggressive in, pursuing primacy for the state. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And, you know, it’s not very often that Louisiana looks over its shoulder in the rearview mirror and sees Texas trying to play catch up, but, yeah, Louisiana is is in the lead position on this. And not just because of geology, but, you know, frankly, because of the leadership of Governor Edwards and and getting out and making this happen. So, so now Louisiana’s got the geology, it’s got the people, it’s got the industry, it’s got the expertise. You’ve got a tremendous service industry in south Louisiana that’s worked offshore and and in Lafayette, in the Acadiana region of just people that are that are experts and being able to figure out ways to do anything and everything and, and, you know, a great workforce that’s spent a lot of time in Texas and maybe they get to stay, maybe they get to stay home a little bit and, and work on, you know, these billions of dollars of projects that are, that are slated for Louisiana. It’s it’s an exciting time. It’s an exciting time for the state. And I think we’ll start seeing, you know, yeah, obviously they’re doing some exploratory stuff now and, and testing, but I think we’ll really start seeing, you know, the dirt turning on CSS projects next year.

David Blackmon [00:07:49] Yeah, yeah. And you mentioned the offshore piece of the business. That’s such a critical part of the industry. And, I wonder in your role, given that the Gulf of Mexico and those leasing, challenges that we, we have going on in this administration, are you getting involved, you in your role, get involved in those Gulf of Mexico kinds of issues for API?

Gifford Briggs [00:08:14] Yeah, to a certain degree. So obviously we’ve got a federal team and leasing in the Gulf of Mexico a federal issue. And we’ve got huge offshore policy people. But the people that service the the Gulf of Mexico and all those platforms, they’re all they’re all Gulf Coast residents for the most part. And and so, you know, it takes a lot of advocacy. It takes a lot of people getting involved in the process. And so one of the things, you know, that’s been great at API is really trying to get a fully integrated approach where the federal team is working with the the the state team is working with the policy team to, to identify, you know, what’s the best path forward. It may be that we need to get people in Louisiana calling their congressmen, or maybe we need to get letters from a chamber of commerce in Alabama written, to their congressmen. Yeah. And so all of those pieces come into play where we’re all working together in a, in a, in a streamlined advocacy campaign and trying to accomplish the goal. The campaign that we did for for offshore to try to move forward with a five year program and get the lease sales moving forward is that was that was a perfect example, isn’t it? And again, it extends beyond the Gulf Coast because, you know, while there’s a lot of focus on leasing in the Gulf of Mexico, there is on leasing, you know, across the country on federal lands and, and the attacks are elsewhere. So it’s been a it’s been a really, a, an integrated approach that we’ve taken and, and where there’s an opportunity, for, for me to fit in, then I do it. Louisiana, another area they’re leading in right now is they’ve got a lot of leadership in Washington. And, you know, with, with, with, with, with, with Congressman Scalise and obviously Speaker Johnson. And so, you know, I’ve got long standing relationships with both of those individuals. And so there’s been times where, you know, the the battle team is. You’ve asked me to to weigh in in those areas. So, those are just different ways that that we try to plug in and provide support, you know, to each other, you know, within API.

David Blackmon [00:10:19] Well, in addition to those powerful positions in the House, you have the most entertaining individual in the United States Senate and Senator Chuck Gibbons. He says he’s not in leadership, but boy, he sure does keep us up.

Gifford Briggs [00:10:32] He is, you know, for those of us that have had the pleasure of knowing, Senator Kennedy for as long as I have, it’s, you know, this is not you know, I’m sure there are people out there that think that he just got to Washington and just this is, you know, this is sort of became his shtick. But this is who he has been for a very long time. And, you know, I’m just very fortunate that he hasn’t, he hasn’t turned that humor in my direction or anything. Yeah. I say, yeah, I think, you know, there’s always an opportunity down the road, but so far I haven’t been the target of any of his. Of his, interesting comments.

David Blackmon [00:11:09] Yeah. It’s it’s best to stay out of Senator Kennedy’s line of fire. I think, I hundred percent be in it. You go back to the Gulf of Mexico. You know, the the administration just finalizes new regulations that, you know, increased, royalty rates for onshore leasing and increased bonding requirements on the industry. It did also, in the new five year plan, they, you know, they are going to be offering some, some lease sales, although dramatically scaled back from past from past administrations. How how did API’s, what was API’s position on those changes to the leasing regulations?

Gifford Briggs [00:11:51] Well, and again I’m not directly involved in all of this. I’d have to leave that to the policy team or or or.

David Blackmon [00:11:57] I’m sorry I’m getting kind of off your track. Yeah.

Gifford Briggs [00:12:00] No, that’s a that’s okay. No. You know, well I can’t comment on the individual policy because I don’t again, I don’t know enough in that specific area. You know we have I will say this is a we have a very detailed policy structure at API. And so it’s not, you know, it’s not sort of fly by the seat of our pants or what our federal team does. Any time any of these rules come before, or are being proposed? We convene a policy committee that is made up of our member companies and experts in that particular field, which we we’ve got lots of experts with lots of opinions across our industry, for sure, and API serves as the convener for those. And so, you know, we go through a very detailed process of bringing it up through the committee structure. You know, you know, financial assurances obviously was one that industry’s been working on for a long time. Not everybody always agrees in the committees, but we’re able to get to as close to 100% consensus. And, you know, we submit our the policy team says, here’s the policy. And then they turn it over to the federal team, and they go and advocate for it on the five year plan. Obviously, that’s very disappointing. You know, the to go from, you know, this year of not having a single lease sale for the first time in history, fighting for resales last year, we’re used to having at least two lease sales a year. You know, this is, the to be to be fair, though, this is an administration that is following through to some degree on some of the commitments. And I think he’s got pushback from, from some of his supporters and saying, you’re not you’re not following through enough. Congress basically said you’re like legally required to have some lease sale. So he’s doing essentially the bare minimum to be able to meet those obligations. But he’s doing what he said. I mean, you know, the president is is serious about a transition away from, from, oil and natural gas to other sources of energy. You know, whether we agree with it or disagree with it, you know, the majority of the voting people sent him to send him to Washington, to, you know, to make true in his campaign promises. And this is one of the ones that he said. So while it is disappointing and we continue to work to educate members of Congress, and there’s a there’s before Partizan support for more lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico, there’s bipartisan support for for the oil and natural gas industry to continue to produce the energy that we need here in this country to be able to support our allies. But this year is a very special year. It’s an election year, so bad things are going to happen, like LNG pauses that make absolutely no sense to anybody. You know, and, and so it’s, just the unfortunate part of, of the world that we’re in right now.

David Blackmon [00:14:48] So what are some of the key issues? You know, this is an election year. And of course, it’s an election year for a lot of the state officials and the state you’re working in. What are some of the key issues the industry’s facing in some of these states that are in your region?

Gifford Briggs [00:15:04] Well, the the good thing for me is that at least I largely live in a region that supports the oil and natural gas. Yeah. Yeah. So so in that respect, it’s a good thing. I mean, we are working on carbon capture legislation and issues across all of my. Except for Florida. Alabama’s got legislation that’s moving through the process right now. Mississippi is working on it. Arkansas is not in session this year, but we did have legislation last year. I think that by the end of 2025, maybe even 2024, but likely 2025, you will see that Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama have all, submitted their request for primacy to the EPA in advance their regulatory and legislative frameworks to be able to begin deploying CSS. So that’s an issue that that as far as proactive or or positive advancements for our industry, that’s the issue that I’m looking at from a regional perspective, obviously, that’s moving forward. Arkansas also has some really interesting lithium developments going on right now with zero blocking, some very, interesting announcements and investments in lithium mining in Arkansas, which is again, that’s, that’s a space. It’s it’s very much in the beginning phases of, of, of those. But we’re, you know, how do we do royalties, how are leases done with mineral owners? I mean, those are some interesting conversations that are starting to happen now. So those are in my region, you know, what the rest of the country is, is it’s it’s, it’s surprising. I mean, we’re seeing, you know, the transition away from, from gasoline powered vehicles happening across the country, you know, and you see it in California, northeast, where they’ve set these arbitrary dates of 2030 or 2035 to start limiting the the percentage of vehicles that can be sold. While, you know, the manufacturers are out there saying we can’t meet these goals. So no, but they’re scaling back. Yeah, the legislation is moving forward and these bands are moving forward. And, you know, again, I’ve talked to my friends in Louisiana and I tell them, hey, you know, Virginia’s banned the sale of gasoline powered engine after 2030. And they’re like, yeah, they have it. That’s ridiculous. But it’s happening. So, that just means there’s going to be a good market for gasoline powered vehicles unless the manufacturers just realize, hey, that market’s too big and we just can’t make those vehicles anymore. And so I think those things are. You know a lot. A lot hinges on this election cycle. And, you know, energy is going to be on the ballot and there is going to be two very different views of how America should advance forward. Our country should move forward in the realm of energy. You know, one that’s that is that is where we are now, which is we’re going to accelerate and use hard, hard policies. And, in order to accelerate a transition away from oil and natural gas to other sources of energy. And that’s the current administration. And I would imagine that’s only going to ramp up if they get reelected as part of their campaign, or you’re going to have the the Trump administration come in and you know, and he’ll he’s likely going to sort of bring back some of the policies from four years ago where it’s it’s, you know, let’s produce as much of, of American energy as we possibly can, let’s, you know, export it where we need to around the world. And let’s make sure that we, provide a high level of national security, through strong energy policy.

David Blackmon [00:18:35] I think that’s actually, you know, people that talk about that. I see a lot of people saying that’s kind of a weakness in our system in the United States where this transition’s concerned is that we have, you know, these frequent changeovers in executive branch of the government. And that kind of slows our ability down. But as I look at it in the future, and I wonder what your view on this is, I think it’s actually a strength for us because because it’s the public sees how things are going. Right. It has the ability to change directions to some extent, but people think a reelection of Trump is going to mean, well, we’re going to repeal the I.R.A. and all this other stuff is going to go away. So much of that is just baked into the cake and is not going to get repealed. You’ll be able to, you know, do specific things around the margins and, and do things to encourage more oil and gas exploration. But what we’re going to end up with, should that happen, I think is just going to be kind of a rebalancing of the mix, not any kind of radical pullback from from what’s being subsidized in the I.R.A.. I wonder what your view is about that.

Gifford Briggs [00:19:48] Yeah. And, you know, so this would be my view, I guess not episode. We’re just sort of talking off the, yeah, yeah, conversation, which is, hey, I’m like, I’m fine with. Right? You know, I think there’s, you know, I haven’t really thought about sort of the balance back and forth and certainly the pendulum swings. And I would like for not in our industry, certainly more than anything is like we with predictability, we can do anything right. If you know what the rules of the game are, we’ll figure out to produced oil and natural gas with it within those rules. So the changing isn’t always great. From a bigger perspective, where the changing does allow, I think, to some degree is ensure that the free market works. Right? Because, you know, what we’re seeing right now under this administration is sort of a heavy handed approach, sort of on the free market, saying where we this is a policy objective, we’re going to drive the free market here. And, you know, with a change in administration, the public has a way to voice saying, we don’t like the direction that you’re forcing the market to go. We’re going to go another direction. And so over time, I think if the public demands electric vehicles, we’re going to see electric vehicles everywhere. I mean, that’s just the reality, right? If the public was demanding electric vehicles right now, I’m pretty sure that President Trump would be up on the platform saying, we are going to make sure that we get electric vehicles for everybody, right? We’re going to make electric vehicles great again, right? I mean, yeah, you see that, right? But that’s not where that’s not where the country is. Yeah, we may get there someday, but because you don’t have one regime in place for 15 years who can put their thumb on the scale for 15 years, which is enough time to really drastically shift. The change allows for the free market to work and to to kind of go, yeah. Whether or not we’re putting our, you know, the thumb on the free market more than I think we should. Yeah, that’s probably more of an offline conversation than a podcast one, I mean, to make sure that I’m still the Gulf Coast region director after this.

David Blackmon [00:21:48] Right, exactly, exactly. Yeah. No wonder I don’t want to damage your career prospects here. Different. So one thing, that, of course, we’re coming up on hurricane season, and that’s something that definitely will impact you and what you’re doing because, some of the onshore facilities have to get ready, right? All the refineries and, and even the EMP operations that are near the coast have to get ready. I wanted to give you a chance to kind of talk about the kinds of preparations this industry does, because it’s so impressive to me, the preparations in terms of safety, and, and hurricane readiness that these companies go through to be prepared for hurricane season are really impressive. And it’s something the public doesn’t know a lot about. Just want to give you a chance to talk about that.

Gifford Briggs [00:22:35] Yeah. So I mean it’s interesting for API in this role that I have obviously I’ve got four of the five like Gulf of Mexico State. So hurricanes are a big role. And you know, I kind of and our office we, we kind of, we kind of look at it as, we’ve got three seasons that we do in our, our work. We’ve got legislative season, which we’re in now and coming to a conclusion of, in June, all of my states essentially have session the same time, which is not true the rest of the country. And then as soon as session ends and really before it ends. But, you know, kind of starting now we begin to transition into hurricane season. And so a lot of our work that we do now until, October ends up being around sort of the the hurricane season and, you know, we’ve had some pretty busy ones, since I came, on board in 2020. And then, you know, obviously after that we go into election season. But but you know the word just I can I’ll speak to about what we’re doing at API right now. Is that that we’ve already begun having conversations with the emergency management officials in all of our states. Just making sure that we’re opening the lines of communication. What changes do they have in place? Who are the right contact, people in place, and begin to make sure that, you know, as we get ready for a hurricane, that everyone’s got the right contact information. You know, depending upon where you are in the industry. So we’re beginning to have conversations with the emergency management officials in the states to to make sure that we’re lying. And then as a hurricane starts approaching, you know, obviously, every company has their own procedures, and it depends on where you are busy coming to the Gulf of Mexico, what category it is, where’s the platform? You know, it could be that, you know, it just began sort of, you know, tightening down the hatches or, you know, sort of to use the, boating, analogy. But it can’t go all the way to, you know, we’re going to shut in the well so that there’s no more production. We’re going to evacuate our teams, the, the, the, the safety of our people and the safety and the environment are always the two most important things that, the industry considers. And a very close one behind that is making sure that we can continue to provide the energy that people need, because the moment the hurricane passes through. The first thing that has to happen is people need power and they need energy, and they need gasoline for their vehicles. They need gasoline for the emergency crews. And so, you know, we can’t just say. We’re going to shut our operation down. Everybody go home for a weekend, evacuate because the country needs us. The communities need us to be back up and running to provide that energy. And so, depending upon where the storm is going, there’s different problems of preparations. But API, you know, my my goal and my associate director, Eric, is, is we’re in constant contact with the companies and the emergency management people, oftentimes serving as a conduit of information. And so that as soon as the storm goes through, we can begin to identify where where do we need fuel? Are the terminals damaged? Can we bring in fuel from other places? And and so that that sort of, coordination of activities, is critical and, you know, do we bring them in from other states or we bring them in is if if it hits Louisiana? I mean, that’s that’s the worst case scenario, right? From a, from a from a fuel standpoint, you have those storms that go up through Baton Rouge and through between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, where, you know, you’ve got 50% of the refining and fuel capacity of power as our nation going through there. That becomes a real a real, critical issue for, for not just for the region, but for the country. You know, if you’re down for a week, we’ve got we’ve got significant problems. And so getting them back operational and sometimes it’s sometimes it’s working with, you know, the state police or the, the governor’s office or the office of, you know, the, the, the National Guard to be able to say, hey, we’ve got to get these roads clear because we’ve got to be able to get fuel our trucks to the terminal and back. Otherwise, you know, this entire portion of the state is not going to have any gasoline. So. Right. That’s just some of the things that kind of what we do and our role, in trying to make sure that people have the energy and fuel they need and fill up their generators and power their homes in many cases.

David Blackmon [00:27:21] Well, it’s an important role you play and it’s been a great augmentation. I think that API performs now that didn’t exist 20 years ago with the regional directors and state directors in some specific states. And I just think it’s been a real enhancement to the industry as a whole. And so I’ve really just personally and I know a lot of companies are to very grateful to API and you for for performing the services you do to augment the efforts of state associations like Loga, you know, and all the other states. So really appreciate what you’re doing. I’m glad I was able to catch up with you this week, Gifford, and, really enjoyed the interview. I wish you the best of luck going forward.

Gifford Briggs [00:28:03] Let’s let’s, let’s not wait too long to do it again. I’m happy to jump on with anytime you got critical issues, just let me know. I’m happy to do it.

David Blackmon [00:28:09] All right. Good deal man. Have a great day.

Gifford Briggs [00:28:12] Appreciate it. Thank you.

David Blackmon [00:28:13] Thank you. And thanks to our audience for joining us, the Samsung Group, for hosting our podcast to our extraordinary producer Eric Burrell. I’m David Black. That’s all for now.

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