Thousands of oil industry workers rallied on Wednesday to lift the moratorium on new deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and head off new taxes and punitive measures in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Companies ranging from Chevron to Apache bussed in up to 5,000 employees to the Houston convention centre to underline to Washington the industry’s contribution to the country.

“We make America run, we make America work, and they need to remember that,’’ said Carroll Robinson of the Citizens Chamber of Commerce to cheers and applause. “If you stop drilling, if you stop producing, America stops working.’’

Attendants donned red T-shirts handed out at the door that proclaimed: “We are energy nation.’’ Others wore the “I am an energy citizen’’ and “Rally for jobs, our jobs, our future,’’ included in the gift bags. They roared when several speakers noted President Obama’s Air Force One flew on fuel the industry produced and the nation watched his speeches on televisions powered by industry fuel.

“So why are we cutting off the Gulf of Mexico?’’ said John Hofmeister, former president of Shell USA and chief executive of Citizens for Affordable Energy. “You cut off your nose to spite your face, Mr president.’’

Many of the workers said they were concerned that the longer the moratorium went on the more jobs would be lost. Brenda Barnard, a Chevron employee, said she remembered how her father had been affected by the oil bust of the 1980s: “The longer this continues, eventually it will reach everybody.’’

“I have been in the oil and gas industry for 40 years, and this administration is trying to break us,’’ said Barbara Dianne Hagood, senior landman for Mariner Energy, a small company. “The moratorium they imposed is going to be a financial disaster for the gulf coast, gulf coast employees and gulf coast residents.’’

Organisers, which included the American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s national trade organisation, said the oil and natural gas industry supported more than 9.2m jobs nationwide and accounted for 7.5 per cent of the US economy. It has invested nearly $2,000bn in US capital projects since 2000.

The Houston rally was one of three held across Texas on Wednesday. Others are planned for Ohio, Illinois, New Mexico and Colorado in the next two weeks.

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