US petchems, energy chiefs say Obama slighted oil, natgas

25 February 2009 19:17  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--US energy, refining and petrochemical interests on Wednesday welcomed President Barack Obama’s focus on energy needs but expressed concern that he voiced no support for conventional oil and gas resources.

In his first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, Obama said that energy is “absolutely critical to our economic future” and that the US must “confront at last the price of our dependence on oil”.

The president said that in his first budget, to be presented to Congress later this week, he will commit $15bn (€11.7bn) annually “to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks”.

He also vowed to double within three years the nation’s supply of renewable energy resources, such as solar, wind and biofuels.

However, he made no reference to existing oil and gas reserves and industry hopes for access to offshore resources recently freed from a 27-year-old congressional drilling ban.

Charlie Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), said the Obama administration needs a more realistic and encompassing view of national energy options.

“The nation will be reliant on fossil fuels for the foreseeable future, and we’d caution against embracing political expedience over a realistic and more holistic view” on energy issues, Drevna said.

He said the new administration should consider “where the nation needs to be in terms of supplying American consumers with the widest array of fuels possible and American manufacturers with the building blocks they need to make their products”.

The US petrochemicals industry is heavily dependent on natural gas as a feedstock and process fuel. Along with a broad array of other manufacturers, NPRA and other petrochemical and downstream chemical interests have lobbied hard for renewed access to the nation’s offshore oil and gas resources.

Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute (API), welcomed Obama’s focus on energy, noting that the president’s speech “elevates energy as a critical national priority and signals to the American people the importance of developing a compressive energy policy”.

However, Gerard too indicated that Obama ignored mainstream energy resources.

America needs all the energy it can get to fuel a recovery and create jobs,” Gerard said. “While alternatives, efficiency and conservation will play an important role in the future, oil and natural gas are needed now and will be needed for decades as a bridge to fuel America’s economy.”

He said that national energy policy “should include all forms of energy, including oil and natural gas”.

“The American people should not be deprived access to the nation’s onshore and offshore oil and natural gas resources,” Gerard said, “including those in federal waters on the outer continental shelf [OCS] off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and in the Gulf of Mexico.”

The Obama administration has already moved to delay and revise plans approved by the Bush administration for renewed access to offshore energy resources.

($1 = €0.78)

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By: Joe Kamalick
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