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FARMINGTON — A Washington, D.C-based energy industry advocate will share his ideas on the global and national challenges facing the industry at a free event at San Juan College on Thursday.

Christopher Guith, senior vice president for policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy, will speak in the Merrion Rooms at the college's School of Energy at 8 a.m. and again at noon. Both sessions are free and open to the public.

In a phone interview on Tuesday, Guith said his talk will focus on education and advocacy, two angles he said are critical to the oil and gas industry, which has been beset with low commodities prices and increased federal regulations.

He will also speak on lifting the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports, an idea that is popular with industry officials and that would give domestic oil and gas companies stronger selling power overseas, Guith said.

"Lifting the ban is going to make a lot more (oil and gas) wells economic and would add jobs that have been lost," Guith said. "It wouldn't be a magic bullet — there is no such thing — but maybe it would be magic buckshot to put some of (those workers) back to work."

An estimated 250,000 to 275,000 people in the energy industry have been laid off since crude oil prices on the commodities market fell from a high of about $140 a barrel a year ago to their current price in the $40 range, he said.

"Two years ago, people would not have considered the advent of exporting crude, but things have changed," Guith said. "New Mexico is a state that’s hurting because of oil and gas prices."

Guith said promoting lifting the crude oil ban is a matter of educating people.

The Institute for 21st Century Energy is the energy policy arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business organization with more than 3 million members, Guith said.

Randy Pacheco, dean of the School of Energy, said he saw Guith speak earlier this year at an oil and gas conference in Grand Junction, Colo., and invited him to come to Farmington to share his ideas.

"(Guith) really talked about the economic impact of the price of energy in the U.S. and about global politics," Pacheco said. "I thought this (would be) a great thing for the producers, for the energy industry and for the public to come in and hear."

Pacheco said he was looking forward to hearing Guith weigh in on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, as it strategizes future petroleum policy during a prolonged downturn in prices.

Pacheco the industry is currently in a downturn "like no other," and energy companies will need to continue to maximize efficiency and articulate a long-term strategy to survive.

"This requires a long-haul strategic plan with efficiency being key to survival," Pacheco said. "I'm hoping (Guith) can address that, to get the U.S. government's take on it."

James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621. 

If you go

What: Christopher Guith presentation

Where: Merrion Rooms at San Juan College's School of Energy, 5301 College Blvd., Farmington

When: 8 a.m. and noon on Thursday

Cost: Free

More information: Call 505-326-3311 or go to events.sanjuancollege.edu.

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