Reliable energy is close to home
The tremendous turmoil in the energy industry has resulted in a vigorous debate about energy policy and Wisconsin’s future. Regardless of specific outcomes, it is certain that petroleum will continue to be vital to America’s energy future well into the 21st century.
While “renewability” is an important factor in our future energy choices, reliability is also essential. Contrary to popular perception, world oil and gas reserves remain abundant. But the lack of access to these reserves is a primary limiting factor in our domestic energy supply.
More than 20 years of ill-considered public policy that restricted access to government lands or prohibited exploration activities has led to higher prices and a significant tightening in current global energy supplies. What hurdles must be overcome to develop a long-term energy policy that includes increased petroleum exploration and reliability?
First, petroleum will continue to be traded in world markets regardless of American views about exploration.
Second, consumers must keep in mind that petroleum is integral to almost every aspect of daily life. Plastics, paint, asphalt, clothing, carpet, medical equipment, cell phones, computers, tools and vehicle components are only a tiny fraction of the thousands of important products we use that are made from the petroleum-refining process.
Third, the closer petroleum supplies are to users, the more reliable a resource petroleum becomes. Distant resources require greater infrastructure and longer delivery times. And in some countries where petroleum resources are abundant, political, economic or social conditions make exploration and production activities very risky or even impossible.
Finally, while petroleum exploration can sometimes involve temporary disruption or public inconvenience, modern technology and environmentally sound resource management practices ensure responsible operations and complete land restoration.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, Canada is America’s No. 1 supplier of its imported oil and natural gas; and the oil sands of Alberta province represent about one-half of western Canada’s production. In fact, its proven oil sands reserves rival those of Saudi Arabia.
This is good news for the United States and even better news for Wisconsin, as oil sands production can arrive in greater volumes at refineries supplying the Midwest.
Adding to the good-news story, Wisconsin-based companies such as P&H Mining Equipment are producing the multimillion-dollar shovels built for use in producing the oil sands. One shovel manufactured by P&H Mining Equipment in Milwaukee provides hundreds of jobs paying family-supporting wages and benefits.
No one is happy about high prices at the pump. I’m certainly not. But common sense must prevail.
A sound energy policy is vital for America’s future. It will include biofuels and nuclear and solar and coal and wind and petroleum.
And to ensure a reliable petroleum supply for the hard-working families of Wisconsin, a sound energy policy must include oil sands production.
Dan Gunderson is coordinator for the Wisconsin Labor & Industry Coalition for Reliable Energy; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; phone (608) 833-2040.