On Energy, the Right Message

By April 29, 2008General

A few weeks ago NAM President John Engler sat down with trade reporters to talk about NAFTA, Colombia, China and other trade and export issues. At one point, a question prompted the Governor to outline what he thought the President should be emphasizing in the closing months of his Administration. Engler:

The one thing that the president would be well served to focus on for the remaining nine months is what can be done on the energy security front. The whole climate debate hinges in part of energy availability. We represent a sector which absolutely cannot function without power. I don’t know much about manufacturing, but I do know the factories won’t work if they don’t have power. Where’s it going to come from? You’ve got these people who don’t want to use coal. You’ve got other people who are opposed to nuclear. You’ve got others who think it will all come from wind and solar. You’ve got others who want to take the hydro projects, the dams, down.

Message delivered? Well, probably not so directly, but today, President Bush led his news conference with remarks that focused on energy.

Americans are concerned about energy prices, and I can understand why. I think the last time I visited with you it was like — I said it was like a tax increase on the working people. The past 18 months, gas prices have gone up by $1.40 per gallon. Electricity prices for small business and families are rising, as well.

I’ve repeatedly submitted proposals to help address these problems. Yet time after time, Congress chose to block them. One of the main reasons for high gas prices is that global oil production is not keeping up with growing demand. Members of Congress have been vocal about foreign governments increasing their oil production; yet Congress has been just as vocal in opposition to efforts to expand our production here at home.

They repeatedly blocked environmentally safe exploration in ANWR. The Department of Energy estimates that ANWR could allow America to produce about a million additional barrels of oil every day, which translates to about 27 millions of gallons of gasoline and diesel every day. That would be about a 20-percent increase of oil — crude oil production over U.S. levels, and it would likely mean lower gas prices. And yet such efforts to explore in ANWR have been consistently blocked.

The President went on to call for new refinery capacity and expanded use of nuclear power, and he criticized those who would make energy more expensive by increasing taxes on its production.

Darn good message.

(P.S. NAM President Engler had more to say about energy and climate-change legislation in his chat with reporters. His observations are in the extended entry below.)

The one thing that the president would be well served to focus on for the remaining nine months is what can be done on the energy security front. The whole climate debate hinges in part of energy availability. We represent a sector which absolutely cannot function without power. I don’t know much about manufacturing, but I do know the factories won’t work if they don’t have power. Where’s it going to come from? You’ve got these people who don’t want to use coal. You’ve got other people who are opposed to nuclear. You’ve got others who think it will all come from wind and solar. You’ve got others who want to take the hydro projects, the dams, down.

You’ve got some who apparently have no fuel source they support to generate power, who don’t believe we need the power. And, if you envision a less of a C02 impact in the future…if you limit your sources, you’ve got roughly 20 percent mobile, 40 percent power generation, 40 percent everything else. And so we want to reduce the carbon impact of each of these three sectors. If you’re going to say that everybody produce everything from natural gas – natural gas is at record high prices. Well, they were higher after Katrina and the disruption, but they’re consistently now at the $9 plus range, and those would go a lot higher if you start shutting the coal down and start shutting other things down.

I think the president should focus on energy. I think nuclear power should play a huge role in this country. I’d love to see some of those permits get done, prior to the time he leaves office. There are some applications pending. That’s very positive in terms of jobs creation in the country. There’s a huge resource base here that is missing, but will restart, if we bring nuclear power back.

Q: What role will China play?

A: They’re now the world’s largest emitter, so the one role they can’t play is innocent bystander, not involved and not covered by global agreements. All the nations have to be in.

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