America’s Energy Victory Garden

By October 9, 2007Energy

Elizabeth Ames Jones, a member of the Texas Railroad Commission — which regulates the state’s energy industries — has a fine op-ed in today’s Washington Post, knocking congressional energy legislation for hindering development of U.S. domestic energy, “Energy Security 101.”

America’s undeveloped oil and gas resources should be considered our generation’s victory garden in the face of today’s struggle to maintain energy security. Innovative technology is bringing on line oil and gas production from heretofore noncommercial and unconventional geological reservoirs. Such technology is on the verge of unleashing vast new supplies of oil and gas.

Jones cites the Barnett Shale, a vast field in the Fort Worth Basin that became a major natural gas producer — 1.5 billion cubic feet a day! — only with the new technologies of water fractionation (water frac), horizontal drilling and 3-D seismic exploration.

Energy development in Texas has been achieved mostly on privately owned property. Why can’t our federal lands be used as productively? The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge may offer oil reserves of as much as 16 billion barrels — which is comparable to the world’s largest oil fields. Even though the environmental impact would be minuscule, Congress insists on keeping the refuge and other potential domestic resources off-limits and ignores the fact that modern exploration techniques could limit drilling in the refuge to a 2,000-acre footprint, or not even half of 1 percent of the refuge’s 19 million acres. Similarly, America’s vast offshore oil and gas reserves in the outer continental shelf remain mostly off-limits to exploration, but successful wells would provide revenue that could be used to fund development of alternative sources of energy for decades to come.

Our country’s energy dependency makes us dangerously vulnerable in economic terms and compromises our national security. Public policies that support rather than impede efforts to increase responsible domestic production are what America needs to retake control of its energy lifeblood from rogue dictators and banana republics.

The NAM’s one-page fact sheet on energy policy is here.

Afterthought: Kudos to whomever for using the term “energy security” in the headline instead of “energy independence.” The two terms are often used as synonyms, but energy independence is a chimera; it does not serve the United States well to try to erect energy walls around the country, especially when other nations can produce raw materials more economically. And are we supposed to not buy Canadian natural gas or Mexican oil?

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