Two Cabinet-level secretaries are taking a look at North Dakota’s energy industry.
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx are looking at needs – and opportunities. And they’re hearing from people who want things to slow down.
As Prairie Public’s Dave Thompson reports, it’s part of the “Quadrennial Energy Review.”
“We’ve had groups here all week taking tours,” said North Dakota Petroleum Council president Ron Ness. He said while it’s good for the two secretaries to have a public meeting and hear from people, it’s also good that they’re getting more of a first hand look at the energy industry.
“That’s our number one message,” said Ness. “Go out there and take a look for yourself. There’s a lot of room. This footprint of this type of oil development is vastly different from anything the world’s ever seen before. Yeah, the talks are important today – but they’re not as important as what they’re going to see first hand when they get out there.”
And it’s not just oil – it’s coal and renewable, too.
“We have the means to produce the energy that we need in this country,” said Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), who convinced Moniz to come to North Dakota. “We’ve got to build out infrastructure and have certainty in policy.”
Heitkamp says this will be the first time in 20 years that a sitting energy secretary will be visiting the Great Plains Synfuels Plant – which was built as a partnership between private industry and the Department of Energy. She says Secretary Moniz is also interested in keeping coal as a viable energy source – if the technology can be developed to reduce carbon emissions.
“The United States of America burns about one billion tons of carbon from coal emissions,” said Heitkamp. “China, four. People are living in a dream world if they think shutting down coal in our country is going to solve the problem as they see it.”
Heitkamp says the Secretary needs to know there are innovative ways of making coal burn cleaner.
At least one environmental group appeared to urge Moniz to put the brakes on oil development.
“It was all rushed through much, much too fast, without adequate planning for infrastructure and regulation and monitoring,” said former Dakota Resource Council chair Marie Huff. She says issues such as oil spills and natural gas flaring show the need for more federal oversight. Huff says state officials haven’t done a very good job with regulating the industry.
“A story that keeps coming back to me is in grade school, when we learned the myth of King Midas, where he was offered the opportunity for a wish,” said Huff. “And he wished that everything that he would touch would turn to gold. And it seems North Dakota officials are living out that myth that we’re becoming very wealthy, but in the process we’re ruining the rest of our resources and out state.”
Moniz will also tour the Tioga gas plant, and will be out on a drilling rig.