Industry and environmental groups at odds over White House energy blueprint

By the OGJ Online Staff

WASHINGTON, DC, May 17 -- Oil and gas associations and other groups favoring exploration Thursday praised the Bush administration's energy strategy as a balance between boosting domestic supply and encouraging conservation.

The American Petroleum Institute said, "Our nation has not broadly discussed energy for several decades. Energy is critical to our nation's continued economic growth and the improved quality of life it provides for all Americans.

"The US needs additional energy production, as well as increased conservation and energy efficiency, to ensure sufficient supply is available to meet future demand."

Most environmental groups criticized the task force report, saying the White House wants to "drill its way out" of high energy prices at the expense of environmental rules that protect public health.

A Natural Gas Supply Association spokesman said, "The country's energy crisis cannot be treated like a spaghetti western, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It's not the 'good guys' versus the 'bad guys,' and it's not clever sound bites that pit one group against another, which is the direction this debate appears to be taking.

"The focus should be on solving the country's energy crisis. The American people are demanding clean, reliable energy at reasonable prices. But real problems exist that are not easy to solve. Demand is outstripping supply in almost every energy sector, which means higher prices for consumers. The President's plan recognizes the need to increase supply in order to balance our current supply and demand scenario."

The American Gas Association, representing utilities, praised the energy program for proposing to streamline permitting and certification of the 38,000 miles of new gas transmission pipeline needed by 2015.

David Parker, AGA president, said, "As the energy debate moves forward, we hope to see policy makers address the need for an additional 255,000 miles of new distribution pipeline. We can't transport the gas to the city gate and just leave it there."

The Coalition for Affordable and Reliable Energy, which represents companies and associations concerned about energy costs, said, "The administration's plan reflects the reality that it will be impossible to achieve energy security ... without more fully relying on coal for a major part of America's energy needs. The US not taking advantage of its abundance of coal would be like Saudi Arabia turning its back on oil."

Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles, chairman of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, commended the policy's "commitment to the long-term view of policy, rather than reacting to the short-term price fluctuations."

Roger Herrera spoke for Arctic Power, which was formed to advocate leasing on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain. "The president is to be commended for understanding that without oil and gas from ANWR, an energy plan is really no plan at all," he said. "Our economy is increasingly high-tech and electronic. Jobs and quality of life hinge on our having an ample supply of energy. Conservation is certainly important, but if we don't produce more energy our nation is headed for trouble."

The Renewable Fuels Association noted the energy study cited ethanol as a successful example of renewable and alternative fuels. It applauded the administration's recommending funding for promising ethanol research and supports continuing federal ethanol incentives.

Environmental groups
The Wilderness Society said the administration's proposal that drilling be allowed in recently created national monuments and in roadless forest areas in national forests would produce miniscule amounts of oil and gas.

William Meadows, Wilderness president, said, "Those who drew up this closed-door energy plan apparently know the price of everything and the value of nothing. We have less than 4% of the world's oil, and even if we poked holes in every scenic place within our borders, it would amount to a blip in the world oil market.

"The proposition that we fund land conservation and research into renewable energy by drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge makes as much sense as burning your furniture to heat your house. It's perverse logic."

Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, said, "The energy plan President Bush unveiled won't work, because it makes the wrong choices. We can't drill, dig and destroy our way to energy independence. Instead, Americans want a balanced approach that gives us quicker, cleaner, cheaper, safer solutions like energy-efficient technologies, renewable power like solar and wind, and responsible additions to supply.

"Government geologists estimate the Arctic Refuge holds only a 6-month supply of oil for the US, and the oil companies know it will take a decade to produce the first drop for consumers. The President pretends the oil industry will use hypodermic needles to extract oil, but surgical precision doesn't exist with oil drilling. Drilling the Arctic Refuge would take a huge industrial development sprawling across the fragile tundra in a vast web of oil rigs, pipelines, roads, landing strips, housing for workers, and vast incinerators for the waste."

The National Audubon Society said, "The Bush administration's energy policy is a series of misguided proposals that will be destructive for birds, wildlife, and their habitat. By emphasizing supply and production the policy encourages the destruction of the last wild places in America, places like ANWR."

It added, "Audubon was established nearly 100 years ago. The Bush administration energy policy is almost a century old in its approach. It reflects little in the way of creative policymaking or the use of innovative technology. A national policy based on energy efficiency and new technologies will help Americans keep their lifestyles while letting birds and wildlife live too."

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