When it comes to energy, preaching to the choir offers a needed reminder

Given the prominent participation of natural gas exploration and production companies at the annual Energy Forum & Expo in Grand Junction, the speakers who deliver presentations there are a lot like ministers preaching to the choir. It’s easy to convince someone of something in which they already firmly believe.

Nonetheless, presentations at the event always offer a needed reminder of two things: the ongoing importance of energy development and just how much politicians tend to screw up energy policy in this country. With gasoline prices —and various political antics — on the rise, speakers at this year’s Energy Forum & Expo offered a number of memorable highlights well worth repeating:

President Barack Obama and members of Congress remain busy in rounding up the usual suspects to blame for rising gasoline prices — greedy oil companies, speculators and unrest in the Middle East. But John Felmy reiterated the basic economic forces at work. The chief economist of the American Petroleum Institute said higher gasoline prices are a direct result of higher crude oil prices, which account for about 76 percent of what consumers pay at the pump. And crude oil is a global commodity for which there’s increasing demand. Want to blame someone for higher gasoline prices? Felmy offered three suggestions: China, China and, oh yes, China.

Canada, not Saudi Arabia, is the single largest source of imported oil for the United States. So wouldn’t it make good sense to encourage infrastructure that increases the flow of oil from our friendly neighbors to the north? Yet, President Obama has delayed construction of the full length of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would connect Canadian oil sands to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast. Both Felmy and Christopher Guith, vice president of policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for 21st Century Energy, questioned that decision. Along with all the other considerations that go with buying oil from Middle East regimes, Felmy raised an especially good point. For every dollar the U.S. spends on Canadian oil, the country gets back 90 cents in trade.

Solar and wind power, biofuels and other renewable energy sources all constitute important components of an all-of-the-above approach to meeting increasing energy demand. And with advancing technologies, there’s hope renewable energy will play a collectively larger role in coming years. Meanwhile, though, it’s unrealistic to think natural gas and oil won’t remain the biggest components of all for the foreseeable future. Consequently, federal policy should reflect that fact and encourage, not hinder, natural gas and oil production.