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Range's Pinkerton: U.S. Energy Self-Reliance is Critical

The United States now has an "incredible" opportunity to be energy self-sufficient, John Pinkerton, executive chairman of Range Resources Corp., told an industry audience last week, urging the development of a diverse energy policy using all of the nation's resources.

"I was around in the '70s when we had the oil embargo, and to think that we've now got the opportunity to be self-reliant is incredible," Pinkerton said. "The thing that scares me the most is the fact that we don't take advantage of the situation as a country and seize the opportunity. It's not about us, it's about our children, our grandkids and these next generations. If nothing else we owe it to them.

"We've paid too much of a price to outsource energy. It's a mistake.

"We haven't had an energy policy in this country for 60 years; it's time to have one. We've got to make a lot of changes. Ninety-six percent of our transportation system in the United States is run off crude oil. That is bad energy policy. It would be like putting 96% of your 401(k) into one stock. We've got to diversify our transportation and utility fuels. We've got to take advantage of all the resources we have."

The veteran industry leader was responding to questions from journalist Gordon Tomb in an on-stage presentation during the Marcellus Shale Coalition's Shale Gas Insight 2012 Conference in Philadelphia on Friday.

Pinkerton, who has headed up Range for the last 20 years, took credit for his company's leadership as the first to voluntarily disclose the contents of the chemicals it uses in hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

"What we're proud of is the fact that now the entire industry is disclosing. From what I can tell, the issue of frack fluids is now off the table." Range announced in July 2010 that it would begin to voluntarily disclose additives to fracking fluids it was using in its Marcellus Shale operations (see NGI, July 19, 2010).

Pinkerton, whose company has been a leader in development of the Marcellus Shale, reminisced about the shale gas beginnings. "If you look back to the shale gas revolution in the United States, obviously it starts in the Barnett Shale in the Fort Worth Basin. It's interesting [that] 20 years ago...most oil and gas experts thought the two most low-quality basins on the continental United States were the Fort Worth Basin and Appalachia."

Pinkerton said it made "common sense" for Range to disclose the contents of its fracking fluids on a well-by-well basis. At the time, in mid-2010, the company operated in about 17 states.

"Like a lot of companies, we've been fracking wells [for many years]," Pinkerton said. "To be quite honest with you, there were very few times that people actually asked what was in our fracturing fluids. Pennsylvanians were some of the first that started the whole conversation of what was in the 'secret sauce' that we were putting in the ground.

"As an industry, we didn't react soon enough, and we didn't pay attention to what we were were hearing. For the most part, a lot of us thought it was just the New York Times [calling for the information]. But our view was quite different; it was Main Street that was asking the questions.

"I reached out to some of the executives I knew at some of the other companies. We talked about it. There was a lot going on, [with people saying] we ought to do it. And then one day, it's just one of those things when you're a chief executive, you have to make a decision. A lot of it came down to the corporate culture in our company, which is just to do the right thing and disclose it. There's nothing in there that's harmful in any way."

Pinkerton said that since the company provided full disclosure he has received "almost zero questions" about fracking fluids. "It's a huge advancement and, quite frankly, we should have done it a lot earlier."

Then came the response from other oil and gas companies.

"It's a competitive industry," Pinkerton said. "We work together for the good of the industry, but it's obviously competitive. We work for our shareholders and try to make the highest return we can make while doing our job fairly, morally, ethically and protecting the environment. I got varying comments from executives. For the most part they were positive.

"One executive called me the morning we announced it. He wasn't screaming through the phone, but he was pretty vocal. And what surprised me was that his comment was 'Gosh, I wish I thought of that first.'"

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