Commerce president urges more US energy access, quicker permits

US Chamber of Commerce Pres. Thomas J. Donohue called for quicker approvals of proposed US oil and gas projects, as well as for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, and more access to domestic resources in his 2012 State of American Business address.

“Energy is a game changer for the United States,” Donohue maintained on Jan. 12. “With the right policies, the oil and gas industry could create more than 1 million jobs by 2018. Not only can we create jobs, but we can cut our dependence on overseas imports while adding hundreds of billions of dollars to government coffers in the coming years.”

Donohue’s recommendations came as part of the nation’s largest business organization’s American Jobs and Growth Agenda, which also urges infrastructure improvements beyond energy; trade, investment, and tourism expansion; regulatory and legal reform; improved intellectual property protection; and immigration, tax, and entitlement reforms.

Regarding Keystone XL, Donohue said the proposed project “has passed every environmental test,” adding, “There is no legitimate reason—none at all—to subject it to further delay. Labor unions and the business community alike are urging [US President Barack] Obama to act in the best interests of our national security and our workers and approve the pipeline. We can put 20,000 Americans to work right away and up to 250,000 over the life of the project.”

Donohue’s call for Obama to promptly approve TransCanada Corp.’s cross-border permit application for Keystone XL came a day after the American Petroleum Institute submitted a letter with the same request from itself and 105 other associations, only 28 of which were part of the domestic oil and gas industry.

Biggest foreign supplier

“With the current situation in the Middle East, and tensions in the Strait of Hormuz continuing to rise, approving this pipeline is the right energy and national security policy for America,” the Jan. 11 letter from API said. “Canada is already our largest supplier of imported oil—almost 2.4 million b/d, or one fourth of our imports. With this proposed pipeline, our crude imports from Canada could reach 4 million b/d, twice what we currently import from the Persian Gulf.”

The project also would transport 100,000 b/d of crude from North Dakota’s Bakken shale to refineries, US Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) noted during a Jan. 11 appearance in Bismarck with Alex Pourbaix, president of TransCanada’s energy & oil pipelines division, and Terry Hildestad, chief executive at MDU Resources Group Inc., a Bismarck utility, pipeline, and exploration and production company.

Hoeven said Tad True, vice-president of True Companies Inc., has indicated that the Casper, Wyo., company plans to build feeder pipelines in North Dakota contingent on Keystone XL’s approval, which would translate into a reduction of nearly 50,000 truck-miles/day, or 17 million truck-miles/year, in the state.

Lynn D. Helms, director of North Dakota’s Mineral Resources Department, has said the new pipeline’s capacity would also reduce the discount on crude produced in the state, giving producers another $4/bbl, the senator added.

“Business in the Bakken is growing for every one of MDU Resources’ businesses because of the infrastructure needed to support oil production, which just exceeded 500,000 b/d,” said Hildestad. “We currently have roads and other infrastructure projects in the works, including over $60 million of work on the books for our Knife River construction materials business.”

Contact Nick Snow at

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