SAFE outlines steps to curb oil reliance, improve energy security

The US should take specific steps soon to use its energy abundance to avert the looming fiscal crisis and accelerate the nation’s economic recovery, Securing America’s Future Energy recommended in a new report.

The organization, which advocates reducing US dependence on imported oil to improve energy security, urged federal policymakers to accelerate advance technology development to reduce oil use, maximize energy production, reform and streamline regulatory processes, and monitor global development that have long-term energy security implications.

With the right policies, energy clearly could play a major part in solving the nation’s fiscal crisis with the right policies, participants at a seminar launching the study agreed. “We see oil security as a unifying vision where people don’t need to compromise their core principles,” said Robbie Diamond, SAFE founder and president.

“It’s important to recognize you can’t support just the technologies you like,” added FedEx Corp. Chief Executive Frederick W. Smith, who also co-chairs the Energy Security Leadership Council, a SAFE affiliate. “You have to take a holistic approach.”

He noted that despite growing US crude production and falling oil product demand, the nation still relies on petroleum to supply 92% of its transportation fuels. “We must diversify,” Smith said. “That includes electrification of short-haul vehicles and adoption of natural gas, either compressed or liquefied, for local and regional fleets.”

Double R&D support

The right federal energy policies would create the right environment to reduce the federal budget deficit, suggested US Sen. LaMar Alexander (R-Tenn.). “The federal energy research and development budget now is $6 million/year, which is a pittance,” he said. “I’d like to see it doubled, and research begun on electric batteries that give vehicles a 500-mile range.”

Federal energy R&D support in the 1970s and ’80s helped perfect hydraulic fracturing, horizontal drilling, and other unconventional exploration and production technologies, starting with Sandia Laboratories perfect three-dimension seismic mapping, Alexander said. “The fact that so much of our land here is privately owned gives the US a significant advantage over countries in Europe and elsewhere,” he observed.

“We definitely advocate opening more US land for drilling where we can,” said retired US Navy Adm. Dennis C. Blair, former US Pacific commander and an ESLC board member. “But we also advocate doing this safely with high, rigid standards and qualified inspectors.” He called on the federal government to open the arena for alternatives to today’s internal combustion engines, but not pick winners and losers.

“We’re not dependent so much on foreign oil as on foreign oil markets, which can be volatile,” said Gene B. Sperling, National Economic Council director and US President Barack Obama’s assistant for economic policy. “Americans are bothered more about sudden price spikes at the gasoline pump than economics say they should be.”

US Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), meanwhile, said, “We have a potential to launch our economy in a way that the rest of the world rallies around. Energy could definitely be a part of that.” Not favoring certain technologies could lead to their not being publicly adopted for 10 or more years, he indicated. “But that would be the proper way to get it done,” he said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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