The US senators who came to the Southern States Energy Board's Governors Energy Summit Oct. 4 in Alexandria, Va., delivered three basic messages: One, more aggressive energy development in the US is an obvious, effective way to reduce unemployment, increase federal revenue, and lower crude oil imports. Two, Congress has grown so partisan that it's not likely to do anything on its own. And three, governors and the states will need to show the way.
Mark W. Warner (D-Va.), Lindsey O. Graham (R-SC), and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) acknowledged the considerable benefits that improving offshore and onshore oil and gas access, facilitating nuclear power development, and reforming federal environmental oversight of coal would bring.
"I would argue that there will be more jobs created worldwide in energy than in any other sector—and that this country is not far in the game in some areas," said Warner.
US oil import dependence's security implications include $700 billion of annual out-of-pocket payments, he said. Including the costs of defending the world's shipping lanes could double the estimated amount, he added.
Warner, who said he was looking forward to becoming honorary chairman of the Alliance to Save Energy, emphasized that improving energy efficiency is an important part of the overall strategy. One possibility, he suggested, might be a program for jobless 18-30-year-olds to help retrofit existing buildings as a condition for receiving continued unemployment benefits after 5 months.
Potential for agreement
Graham agreed that more US energy development would provide extensive benefits. "My sense is that energy could have the most potential for agreement on how to increase federal revenue," he told SSEB meeting participants. He also said coalitions could be built in Congress, but it will be extremely difficult.
Manchin was more pessimistic. He said it might be more constructive for every state to audit its energy use to learn how much it relies on foreign oil. West Virginia, with all of its coal, gas, and wind resources, discovered that its energy independence lasted only 4 months when it did, Manchin said.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R), who moderated the meeting's oil and gas discussion, said his state collected $85.5 million in severance taxes from onshore production last year, and another $1.1 million from state-owed tracts in Mobile Bay. "We basically have had minimal environmental impacts from our long-standing oil and gas development, and we are working to preserve that record," Bentley said.
Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) clearly would like his state to have the same opportunity. The general feeling at the meeting, which he hosted, was that it will take a coordinated—and bipartisan—effort.