The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Energy Tomorrow Radio: Episode 108 - David Holt's Perspective on Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted May 17, 2010

In today's episode, I interview David Holt, president of the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), about the need to learn from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, while continuing to develop oil and natural gas offshore.

Use the audio player below to listen to information about the article and follow along with the show notes. I hope you find the podcast informative.

00:17 The tragic Deepwater Horizon accident and oil spill has been making headlines all over the country in recent weeks, causing editorial writers and bloggers to weigh the risk and benefits of offshore drilling. Few people are focusing on the importance of offshore oil and natural gas to American consumers. David Holt, president of the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), is with us today to talk about the need for offshore energy.

01:02 First of all, tell our listeners about CEA.

01:06 David Holt: CEA is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that was founded about five years ago and it is made up of almost every sector of the U.S. economy, including retailers, manufacturers, transportation, food distributors, retirees, hospitals, restaurants, and the broad energy sector, including oil, natural gas, wind, solar, hydro and nuclear power. We also have about 300,000 consumer advocates that respond to our calls of action and that weigh in on vital energy policy issues. Our approach is that you need it all. This country has gone too long without a robust, balanced long-term vision for energy policy. We're well past the time to utilize near-term energy resources that we have at our disposal, such as oil and natural gas. We also need to prepare for the long-term by building out our alternative energy infrastructure. We reduce imports, improve our country's standard of living, and improve energy prices for consumer groups. Our organization improves almost every sector of the economy.

02:27 API agrees with your all-of-the-above approach to energy supplies. But, for today, let's focus on the importance of oil and natural gas. How would you describe the importance of these two fuels to the U.S. economy?

02:42 David Holt: Vital, Jane. It really can't be overstated. Oil and natural gas are the lifeblood of this economy. The manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, medical and IT, as well as the oil and natural gas industries make up the backbone of this country's economy. These industries provide approximately 70 to 80 million jobs in this country. According to the latest Census data, the current U.S. population is approximately 310 million people and there are only about 115 million paid jobs. Seventy percent of the work force in this economy relies directly on the need for oil and natural gas. For the foreseeable future, oil and natural gas will be the backbone and the lifeblood of this economy, and we simply cannot do without it.

03:50 As you know, a lot of oil that is produced in the United States is developed offshore. Do you know how much oil production comes from offshore areas and how much of that comes from the Gulf of Mexico?

04:04 David Holt: Yeah, right now about 30 percent of all of the domestic oil production comes from the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), which includes the waters around the nation and Alaska, and about 70 percent of that comes from the Gulf of Mexico.

04:26 Many people have asked recently why so much of our domestic oil is being produced offshore and how important that is to consumers and to the U.S. economy. How would you respond to that?

04:37 David Holt: So much of domestic energy is offshore. Literally millions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas lie in the offshore waters around the country, and every time we look, we find more. A lot of the data we rely upon for estimates of how much resources lie offshore is about 30 years old or older. Additionally, every time we go into a new area offshore, we end up finding more oil and natural gas than we thought existed. It is a vital resource. It's also a great opportunity to continue to expand our domestic energy production, spur economic growth and create jobs in this country.

05:28 But what about the risks? There are critics who say we should stop producing oil and natural gas offshore because of the risk. What do you say to them?

05:37 David Holt: First, we need to recognize the loss of life and the environmental consequences of the Deepwater Horizon incident. We also need to recognize the risk, and the need to reevaluate and ensure that the industry is doing all it can to produce our much needed oil and natural gas off our coasts in a safe, responsible and environmentally sensible way. But, critics and several groups are trying to take advantage of this situation by saying that we should immediately stop all exploration and drilling in this country. We would argue that that's a mistake because of the importance of the oil and natural gas industry to every sector of the economy and to U.S. consumers. We certainly don't want to see an increase in the amount of imports. Currently, about 60 percent of our oil needs come from foreign countries. If we stop drilling offshore, that could immediately go up to approximately 80 or 90 percent. Our energy security and national security would be significantly at risk. For those that are saying, "let's stop it now," I call on them to offer an alternative solution. There isn't one. We need to do a much better job at making sure we do this safely and responsibly, but ending offshore domestic oil and natural gas exploration development would absolutely kill this economy and destroy this nation.

07:33 But there are a lot of people who say there is an alternative, and it involves alternative energy supplies and renewables. Is it possible to wean this nation of oil and move to those quickly?

07:48 David Holt: Quickly is the key word in that, and we agree that we need a robust, balanced energy policy in this country. We need more wind, solar, hydro, nuclear and wave power, but we need to recognize that more than 95 percent of our domestic transportation relies on oil and less than 7 percent of all our energy needs are met with all of our alternatives combined. International energy agencies and the U.S. Department of Energy predict that in 30 to 40 years the 7 percent demand for alternative energy in this country will go up to 10 percent. We need to recognize that alternative energy will not make a meaningful difference in meeting U.S. demand in the foreseeable future. We can do more to increase the supply and use of alternative energy, but we also must have an honest discussion about it and recognize that oil and natural gas will be the predominate resources for the foreseeable future.

09:16 I noticed that you posted a letter on your website that invites your readers to send letters to the Minerals Management Service (MMS) in support of offshore drilling. Can you explain why you did this?

09:30 David Holt: Every five years MMS issues a five-year plan and that plan looks at what areas off the U.S. coast should be made available for domestic exploration. This plan includes an in-depth environmental assessment and an open, robust comment period for members of the public, including those in the coastal states, as well as involved industries, such as the fishery industry. Since its creation, the CEA has been very involved with offshore exploration and development, other energy sources, including wind, solar and nuclear and energy issues. During this particularly critical time--in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon incident--I think it's important for the government to take a very balanced view of the situation, but also what offshore development means to the nation. The government needs to look at it from an energy security standpoint, and all of the indirect jobs provided by the oil and natural gas industry that would be impacted if we don't continue to thoughtfully develop our offshore oil and natural gas resources. The CEA continues to work with MMS and the federal government to make sure that these messages are heard, while everyone is working very hard to stop the leak and move forward.

11:52 It sounds like you think that this is not the time for the president to reconsider his plan to expand offshore drilling.

12:00 David Holt: We've been encouraged by the president's thoughtful comments and prudent response that we need to examine what's going on because we don't have all the facts yet. I think that the president recognizes this country's energy needs will be met by oil and natural gas for the foreseeable future, while in the long-term, we should move toward a more diverse energy portfolio. We supported the president's announcement about his robust energy plan on March 31, and we continue to support the president's current statements that we should closely examine the Deepwater Horizon situation, but continue to move forward.

12:58 David Holt, thank you for giving us your perspective on the Deepwater Horizon accident and for joining us today on Energy Tomorrow Radio.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jane Van Ryan was formerly senior communications manager and new media advisor at the American Petroleum Institute (API), where she wrote blog posts and produced podcasts and videos. Before coming to API, Jane managed communications for a large science and engineering corporation, and for a top-tier research and engineering university. A few years ago, you might have seen her in your living room when she delivered the news on television. Jane officially retired from API in 2011 and now freelances as an independent communications consultant when not gardening at her farm in Virginia.