Take, for instance, the manufacturing industries that produce components for pipelines or rigs; the IT professionals who manage computing technologies and systems; the service industries that provide contractors, tools and supplies; or port officials and shipping employees who transport oil and natural gas products.

In a capital intensive industry like oil and natural gas, the billions we spend on projects that last for decades are a source for sustainable, good-paying jobs. In fact, in 2008, oil and gas industry exploration and production wages were more than double the national average.

One of the most impressive sources of job growth has been in the natural gas sector, where new technologies have unlocked large supplies throughout the U.S. The result has been a 20 percent increase in natural gas jobs from 2006 to 2008, according to a recent study. The natural gas industry alone supports more than 2.8 million jobs in the U.S., and we’re part of this effort due to our recent merger with XTO Energy, one of the country’s leading natural gas producers.

Oil and natural gas industry jobs, however, are only as strong as the policies that support them. We need our lawmakers to create policies that promote access to U.S. energy supplies, as well as those that maintain consistent and fair taxes and regulations.

For more than a century, the oil and natural gas industry has been fueling the U.S. economy, as well as the livelihoods of millions of Americans. As the nation faces a long road to economic recovery, this role has never been more important. Let’s make sure we don’t take the jobs that the oil and gas industry supports for granted.

Ken Cohen is vice president of public and government affairs for Exxon Mobil Corporation. He has worldwide responsibility for the company’s public policy, government relations, communications, media relations and corporate citizenship activities.