Written by Phil Cerroni
By Phil Cerroni
Junior Conference Room A at the Irving Convention Center was packed with businessmen chatting happily about shared work and common interests before the start of the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute’s (TCCRI) Irving Energy Summit. The conference’s topic: the possibility of energy self-sufficiency in the United States.
State representative Linda Harper-Brown’s opening statements put the proceedings into perspective by saying that the topics discussed that day showed the “broad economic benefits of our state’s robust energy sector.”
The most important thing, she said, is to develop a, “commonsense approach to regulation and to balancing the need for regulation with the prosperity that the free market brings us.”
Susan Combs, the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, was adamant that one of the reasons for Texas’ economic success is its involvement in developing new means of energy advancement.
“Oil and gas have been driving everything for the last year,” Combs said.
No matter how positive Combs is about Texas’ healthy economy, she said there have been obstacles to its progress including a lawsuit filed by the EPA over greenhouse gas emissions and taxes like the recent Affordable Care Act that Combs says is an “extraordinary legal region,” that could stunt the recent economic growth this state has been experiencing.
“Tax policy creates an environment, and capital will flee a hostile environment, which is why people are fleeing California. We do not want to turn into the son of California,” Combs said grimly.
The afternoon’s keynote speaker was T. Boone Pickens, oil magnate and investment capitalist. A geologist by schooling, Pickens has drilled for oil on almost every continent and released an energy model in 2008 called the Pickens Plan. His plan for nurturing our burgeoning economy is simple: “Use our own resources instead of using foreign oil.”
Part of his plan hinges on the exciting new possibilities we are literally standing on – the natural gas being drilled in Texas and the potential it has for placing our country far down the road to self-sufficiency.
“The United States has the cheapest energy in the world,” Pickens said. “We are sitting on a huge change in energy globally. OPEC is not going to have near the power in five years that they have today. There is a lot more energy around the world than I ever imagined.”
Part of Pickens’ solution is a “natural gas highway” that would greatly reduce the cost of highway transportation. With a twenty-four thousand dollar upgrade, each truck would have a fuel equivalency of eight cents per gallon.
Not only does this bring down transportation costs, but it also acts as a huge step in lessening our dependence on foreign oil. Pickens is sure that we have the potential to save 3 million barrels of oil a day by switching over to natural gas. That is a large part of the 4.4 million barrels a day we import from OPEC.
But Pickens, like Combs, does not predict an easy road ahead. However, he says that the only people stopping us are ourselves. A fact he bemoaned saying, “This country has never had an energy plan.” But none of these obstacles seem insurmountable as long as the United States is willing to change the way it does business.
“We have taken care of supply; we need to develop demand,” he said confidently.
One objection that has been brought against this plan is that it “forces one to choose winners.” There is nothing farther from the truth Pickens insisted, saying, “You can either go with your fuel or foreign fuel,” he said.
Unlocking our energy resources is already having a local effect on Texas. Barry Smitherman, Texas Railroad Commissioner, elaborated on the many benefits that it has for private citizens.
“The typical household should be able to save between ten and fifteen dollars a month just because the price of natural gas is so low.”
Smitherman said that saving on one’s electricity bill is not the only benefit of natural gas.
“Any manufacturing or industrial process that uses natural gas is doing much better today because the price of natural gas is low. If you are in an industry that uses natural gas as a building block of what it does, like making plastic, that plastic is cheaper made in Texas than it has been in a long time. Companies will expand, invest, and create more jobs here locally. And that brings down the price of everything.”
The private sector is chomping at the bit to take advantage of what they see as this nation’s full energy potential, and it is now a matter of enacting policy that will allow the industry to reach its full potential.