Pundit Says Energy Should be Populist Issue

A leading energy pundit told a Houston audience last week that the U.S. energy debate is completely politicized--what should be a populist issue has instead been relegated to the "conservative side of the Republican Party." And partly because of the divide, the country is falling further behind in its quest for more energy supplies.

Ronald E. Oligney, co-author of The Color of Oil and a University of Houston adjunct professor, said conservationists who criticize the push for expanded U.S. production still have to be convinced, so he offered a telling example. It would take 20,000 windmills, Oligney said, to match one 2,000 MW plant, because alternative energy sources still cannot replace the energy force of oil and gas. But push has come to shove, he said. U.S. supplies have to be replenished, and not just for automobiles.

"Today, 15-20% of all U.S. power is consumed" by the Internet and related computers, which will continue to expand, Oligney told the Society of Professional Well Log Analysts. However, even ramping up conventional exploration and production would have little impact on future supplies, and because of that shortfall, Oligney predicted the United States will see increased imports of liquefied natural gas, along with deepwater exploration and production.

Predicting that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will not be opened to E&P anytime soon, Oligney also said the United States should not put its eggs into production imports from Canada or Mexico because their economies also are expanding. Even by the time an Alaska natural gas pipeline is finally built in the next five to seven years, the U.S. economy still will need three or four more pipelines to match it, Oligney said.

Oligney's research with Michael J. Economides, who co-wrote The Color of Oil, suggests that natural gas use actually will rise more quickly than the predictions of the U.S. Energy Information Administration. EIA forecasts that the world's total energy supply is shifting toward natural gas, to a mix of 36.7% oil and 29% natural gas in the next 20 years. Oligney and Economides, however, who also consult with energy companies, predict the gas share will be in the 45% to 50% range by 2020.

Oligney also took some shots at the energy problems in California, calling Gov. Gray Davis an "idiot" who was to blame for the energy crisis in the state. Davis and his fellow California politicians now want to shift the blame to marketers outside the state, especially the "bastards in Texas" who have been the targets of vicious attacks, Oligney said.

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