Aug. 25--If not for regulatory and legal obstacles, the United States and Canada could meet more than 90 percent of their oil demand from domestic sources, according to a group funded by energy companies.
Consumer Energy Alliance has come out with more than a dozen policy recommendations that it says will boost oil production and help the economy, while environmental advocates say that many of those steps would be potentially disastrous.
"Given the proper political will, all of these things are achievable," said David Holt, president of the Houston-based group.
He spoke yesterday in Columbus at a meeting attended by local oil-industry officials. Ohio has seen a surge in investment in oil and gas production in the past two years because of the potential for resources in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations.
Among the proposals:
--Create a national energy policy with a goal of increasing energy production and eliminating unnecessary rules.
--Increase funding for federal agencies that oversee energy exploration, production and transportation.
--Resist "punitive tax treatment" for onshore and offshore energy production.
--Educate the public and local governments about "the historical use and safety record of hydraulic fracturing."
Today, the U.S. and Canada import about 45 percent of the 20 million barrels of oil consumed per day, the group said, citing government data. The share of imports could be reduced to less than 30 percent by 2015 and less than 5 percent by 2020, based on the group's estimates of oil reserves.
The percentages are part of a report the group said it plans to issue soon. Yesterday, all that was available was a four-page summary.
Jack Shaner, deputy director of the Ohio Environmental Council, said that oil-industry groups often argue that their agenda will help the country's economy and security, but that the actual goal is to pad industry profits.
"It sounds like there would be an oil and gas derrick on practically every square mile (and) pipelines criss-crossing the landscape," he said. "I suspect that there will be no sacred land any more."
Another critic of the industry group also had harsh words for its goals.The Consumer Energy Alliance's agenda is "to make sure the U.S. locks itself into fossil-fuel dependence for decades," said Anthony Swift, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Earlier this week, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney issued a plan that calls for the U.S. to produce enough energy to meet all of its needs by 2020. His proposals cover much of the same ground as Consumer Energy Alliance.
At the same time, the group says President Barack Obama is hostile to the oil industry. The president often says he has an "all of the above" energy policy, by which he means he supports expanded production from almost all energy sources.
"Right now, 'all of the above' doesn't seem to include oil and gas," Holt said.
(c)2012 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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