Energy executives say their industry is paralyzed;
environmentalists wonder what happened to policies promising
alternative energy. The next four years could shape the American
energy landscape for decades.
On Friday, five of the best minds in energy in Oklahoma sat down
to discuss how the election will affect our nation's energy policy
for generations to come.
Miles Tolbert, energy and environmental attorney and director at
Crowe and Dunlevy law firm, joined Harold Hamm, chairman and CEO of
Continental Resources; J. Larry Nichols, executive chairman of Devon
Energy; Oklahoma Secretary of Energy Michael Ming; and environmental
and energy attorney Jim Roth.
For those in the energy industry, the next four years are the
best of times and the worst of times, Tolbert said.
Hamm said, and Nichols agreed, that for the first time in their
lives, North America could achieve energy independence. That
accomplishment is not just technologically remarkable; both consider
it a patriotic feat.
If America stopped importing oil, U.S. troops would no longer
have to die to protect energy resources in the Middle East, Hamm
But an increase in federal regulations from the Environmental
Protection Agency and the Fish and Wildlife Service stands in the
way of drilling our way to freedom from Middle Eastern petroleum,
the energy executives said. To add insult to injury, these
executives believe some Americans are opposed to all fossil fuels at
any cost. This future of solar and wind energy only isn't realistic.
All five experts want the administration to be realistic in
developing an energy policy that won't forsake the economy on behalf
of the environment.
Not all regulations are bad, Nichols said. But the state has the
most experience and the best ability to control environmental damage
and safety hazards, he said, and while the president seems to be
reluctantly embracing natural gas as a cleaner fuel, his actions and
the actions of his administrative agencies will tell the true story.
At a crossroads
Part of the problem President Barack Obama has is that his
political base is in favor of renewable energy sources, such as wind
and solar. Keeping that political base happy when there's a newfound
abundance of fossil fuels available in the United States is a
challenge, said Roth, an attorney with Phillips Murrah.
The Keystone XL pipeline controversy is a perfect example of that
crossroads, Nichols said. Labor unions were in favor of building the
pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, but environmentalists
put pressure on the administration to delay the permit to cross
"He punted on that," Nichols said. "He endangered our
relationship with China, and now Canada is actively working with
China to build a pipeline (to supply that market)."
The next four years will show how sincere Obama is about the all-
of-the-above approach to energy policy, Ming said. As new supplies
of oil and gas came on-line in the last few years, producers helped
keep the Oklahoma economy above water, he said.
"Our policy is that the greenest thing we can do is take the
energy we have and make it better," Ming said.
Drilling a single well deeper and longer can tap more resources
underground with less effects to the surface, he said.
State knows best
Energy executives and state officials see new federal regulations
as unnecessary and burdensome. New air quality rules will limit smog-
forming pollution and hazardous chemicals emitted by power plants,
drilling operations and oil tank farms.
Roth said that the EPA doesn't have the resources to regulate
Oklahoma operations to the level of that by state agencies.
Nichols said the federal agency doesn't have the decades of
expertise, either. Hamm agreed, saying the first state rules on
underground injection in oil and gas drilling were created in 1913.
In the absence of environmental harm or safety risks, more
regulations only hinder the oil and gas industry, Nichols said. …