The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Balancing Act

February 27, 2011

Shale development lessens dependence on foreign energy

— The development of the Marcellus shale, in addition to the state’s other energy resources, could make West Virginia a major player in weaning the U.S. from its dependence on foreign oil sources.

According to the Energy Information Administration, the United States imported about 51 percent of the petroleum it consumed in 2009. This need for foreign oil exists even though the country is the third-largest producer of crude oil in the world.

In 2009, the United States produced 11 percent of the world’s petroleum and consumed 22 percent.

The largest sources of foreign oil were Canada, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Nigeria.

Advancements in biofuel and coal-to-liquids and the decreased demand for petroleum-derived fuel are expected to further reduce the demand for foreign oil sources. The natural gas and coal industries are looking at ways to become part of a growing desire for local fuel sources.

Chris Hamilton, vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association (WVCA), said that traditional coal products, as well as new coal technologies, will be a part of the nation’s effort to decrease foreign oil dependence.

“The national agenda should have national security and energy independence at the top,” Hamilton said. “They go hand in hand with one another, and with those as priorities, then all that follows will be consistent and supportive of those shared goals, including a meaningful energy policy, coal-to-liquids reality, adequate mine production and combustion research and a view that recognizes and embraces natural resources as ‘assets.’”

Bill Raney, WVCA president, said both fuels can be used to lessen dependence on foreign energy.

“We truly need to think about energy security in this country. I think it’s a national security issue,” Raney said of creating policies friendly to energy companies.

Natural gas companies are also looking at creating cars fueled by natural gas.

Greg Kozera, of Superior Well Services, told West Virginia House Judiciary members that if energy industries are allowed to increase the supply of domestic energy, it would stabilize the nation politically. He added that if “free from foreign oil,” America could “bring its young people home.”

Scott Rotruck, vice president of Chesapeake Energy, said energy security is one of many problems that could be solved by a growing natural gas industry.

“The Marcellus shale presents a tremendous economic development opportunity,” Rotruck said. “Natural gas is clean, it’s abundant, it’s affordable and it’s in West Virginia,” Rotruck said. “It can help us solve environmental issues. It can help us solve economic issues. It can help us solve national security issues.”

— E-mail: tkuykendall@register-herald.com

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