HOUSTON, Feb. 26�Oil industry groups Monday praised Sens. Frank Murkowski (R-Alas.) and John Breaux (D-La.) for opening debate on a comprehensive national energy strategy.
The senators filed an omnibus bill designed to lower US dependence on imported oil (OGJ Online, Feb. 23, 2000). Murkowski is the Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman. Breaux is the ranking Democrat on the panel. Another key cosponsor was Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.).
The American Petroleum Institute said, "For years, Sens. Murkowski, Breaux, and Lott have been tireless voices encouraging environmentally sound exploration for oil and natural gas in this country. Today, they have focused our attention again on the pressing need for a comprehensive national energy policy.
"This bipartisan bill should engender much-needed debate on our national energy policy. Our nation's energy production is operating near maximums. This bill, importantly, recognizes that expanding our nation's domestic energy sources is essential for sustained economic growth. Clearly, our energy challenges must be addressed through increased access to sources of both domestic and worldwide petroleum. Conservation can and should play an important role as well."
The Natural Gas Supply Association agreed that the US needs "a consensus around a clear national energy policy."
Skip Horvath, NGSA president, said, "Producers of natural gas know the realities of what we face as we enter a whole new natural gas market. Demand continues to be strong. Although we are confident supply can keep pace, a key component to increased supply is access to now off-limits federal lands."
He said the National Petroleum Council has estimated that federal and state lands off limits to drilling contain an estimated 213 tcf of gas, or about 10 years of supply for the nation.
"We recognize that there is a lot to get done [on energy policy] in the next year, but the dialogue cannot begin too soon given the difficult winter season we just finished. It is in everyone's best interest to work out our differences and move forward," he said.
Jerald Halvorsen, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America president, said, "The natural gas industry is seeing a continuing rise in the demand for natural gas. I believe this legislation will help to increase the supply of natural gas by providing additional access and incentives to producers and assist the building of additional infrastructure by seeking ways to expedite the environmental review and permitting process."
David Parker, American Gas Association president, said Congress should enact provisions in the bill to review undrilled gas resources, expand the pipeline delivery system, and develop energy-efficient technologies.
"Put simply, more supply of natural gas means lower prices for consumers," he said.
He said the bill would also strengthen the US national security posture by removing barriers to increased use of domestic natural gas.
At a press conference, Murkowski said, "Each day, more than 8 million bbl of crude oil must come in from foreign shores. That is a dangerous strategy by anyone's measure. This bill spells out a national energy strategy with a critical goal: to finally reduce to 50% the amount of oil we import."
He said the bill would increase the use of alternative energy and energy efficiency.
Breaux said, "Our legislation provides incentives to increase oil and gas production, which, in turn, will help create jobs and lower energy costs."
The legislation would permit development of oil and gas fields on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge east of Prudhoe Bay field in Alaska.
Murkowski said, "We can't afford to leave our best players on the bench. That means it is necessary to responsibly open certain parts of Alaska's coastal plain, our nation's best hope for new domestic exploration. It can be done in an environmentally thoughtful and careful manner and it can replace the oil we buy from Saudi Arabia for the next 30 years."