The Real Energy Policy in Washington Is Political

THE JOURNAL RECORD, December 11, 2000 | Go to article overview

The Real Energy Policy in Washington Is Political


Energy conferences are prevalent this time of year. Perhaps too much so. There have been at least four in the last month.

The latest of these was the 8th annual international energy policy conference sponsored by the Sarkeys Energy Center, University of Oklahoma and the International Society of Energy Advocates.

Robert L. Parker, chairman of the board of Parker Drilling Co., a company based in Tulsa with worldwide drilling operations, was the keynote speaker. He is widely recognized as an authority on national and international petroleum policies.

With tongue in cheek perhaps, Parker told the group that contrary to common believe this country has an energy policy.

Every two years by law it is required that an energy policy be prepared. The first one was only a page long, and basically said for government to get out of the way and let the industry do its job. The newest energy policy is five pages.

"Like most of them it is not bad, not good, it just doesn't say anything."

He reminded that a real policy must include all aspects of energy, and one of the problems about developing it is the inability of energy people to agree.

"Each of us has a different viewpoint on what it should contain. I'm a drilling contractor. I look at it differently than others. When you sit down to write one each of you will write it from your own perspective."

There is one important change in the new one that says you can drill on "non-park lands." That is very important, because when you say federal lands most people immediately think of Yellowstone National Park or Yosemite, where they are adamant about not drilling.

"The real energy policy in Washington, D.C., is what I call political energy. Politics comes ahead of oil and gas and other sources of energy," Parker continued.

He suggested it is politically popular to promise alternative energy sources such as wind and sun, and pointed out that $81 billion of tax money has been spent researching wind and sun.

He said we can still use it and it will help, but it could do only about 1 percent of the needs of the United States. It is misrepresented as a solution to our energy problem. It is misrepresented as if we can stop pumping wells and switch to something else, but there is no something else.

"We do not have an alternative. Natural gas is one of the best, and is important, but we do not have enough. The demand for natural gas is out of sight," Parker declared.

"Electricity is a big problem in the U.S. today. We told them we had gas, lots of it, cheap and clean. We don't. They bought it. They are building generating plants like crazy -- 40 in California. Because they want all this gas we're coming up with, we're compounding the demand for it."

But Parker admonished that $4 natural gas quickly brings coal back into the picture even with the scrubbers and other environmental requirements.

As a result of the higher gas prices, we are losing some market share. He pointed out that 11 plants have switched to coal within the last 30 days.

"We are losing market share because of the real fear that we have guaranteed natural gas that we may not be able to deliver. …

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