A panel of energy industry experts speaking to the 2015 Gulf Coast Energy Forum in Tampa said that although a lot of buzz has been generated about alternatives to oil and natural gas, fossil fuels will remain the indispensable core the world’s energy portfolio for decades, if not longer.
Patrick Sullivan from the Mississippi Energy Institute employed a line from his state’s former Gov. Haley Barbour when it comes to both increasing the size of alternative fuels and especially federal mandates to do so.
“Before I jump in the back seat with ’em, let’s listen to a few more songs on the radio,” said Sullivan, adding he may have even heard enough.
“The fact is that coal and oil are going to remain a major part of the energy portfolio globally, with or without the U.S,” Sullivan said. “If you just look at where the deposits are in the world, and where the under-served populations are, they’re in places like India and China. And they are investing heavily in these traditional sources of energy.”
All three panelists who took part in a panel titled “Unleashing Gulf Energy” echoed the sentiment.
Shell oceanographer Ruth Mullins Perry said government projections show that 9 billion barrels are available in the Gulf of Mexico, and that there’s enough untapped oil in the Atlantic to power Florida for 17 consecutive years without buying petroleum from other sources.
Allaying concerns that more drilling means more spills, Perry said in the years since the 2011 Deepwater Horizon catastrophe a rigorous “culture of safety” has emerged at her company and others.
“If you’re caught texting while you’re driving or if you fall from the stairs and you weren’t using the handrails, you will be fired,” Perry said. “That’s the level of commitment to safety we’ve taken on.”
All three panelists also emphasized their reservations about the EPA’s looming Clean Power Plan.
“Or as I call it, the ‘Make Electricity More Expensive Plan,” quipped Sullivan.
The panel decried what they described as an EPA overreach that, along with the new “Waters of the United States” rule — as GCEF partners at the James Madison Institute recently contended in a study — vastly increases governmental power over relatively ecologically inert surface water.
To Sullivan, the question of alternative energy versus traditional sources was as simple as this: “Ask the consumer: Do you want $4 gas or $2.20 gas?”
The above disparity can make the difference, Sullivan said, between a worker who earns $50,000 spending 16 percent of their take-home pay on gasoline versus 9 percent. That gap is something consumers of all persuasions can appreciate, he said.
What can advocates of doubling down on traditional sources rather than on alternative energy half-measures? Showing up, Brent Greenwood of HBW Resources said.
“At public comment periods [on regulatory rule-making processes], offshore leasing plans and of course, attending events like the GCEF,” Greenwood said.