President Barack Obama’s second term is now in full swing. New terms equal new department heads and new nominations. The president recently nominated Gina McCarthy to become the Environmental Protection Agency chief administrator and Ernest Moniz to become the secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy. Due to the United States experiencing an historic shale revolution, each nominee, pending U.S. Senate confirmation, has a large task ahead.
While McCarthy has a lengthy resume with the EPA, if she is senate-confirmed as the chief of the department, she will have the opportunity to work with the oil and gas industry, unlike her predecessor. Over the past few years, former EPA head Lisa Jackson has been less than effective at forming a productive relationship with the oil and gas industry.
Within the EPA’s control, fall the regulations for hydraulic fracturing. This technical process, often referred to as “fracking,” is truly the game-changing technology that has enabled the oil and gas industry to experience the tremendous amount of activity the country is privileged to have today. A senior Obama official recently praised the hydraulic fracturing process. William Press, a member of the president’s council of advisers on science and technology, said America will only achieve the ambitious climate change goals outlined by President Obama by encouraging wide-scale hydraulic fracturing for natural gas over the next few years.
As for Moniz, he will hold the reigns to fulfill some of the promises that Obama made in his most recent State of the Union speech. The president spoke of minimizing red tape surrounding oil and gas permitting process. Moniz will be charged as the secretary, to facilitate and execute this lengthy process that is currently required to receive a permit for new exploration. Also, within Moniz control, will be the option of opening new U.S. coastal waters for exploration. Energy independence and or energy security cannot and will not be achieved if more coastal waters are not opened.
Portions of the Gulf of Mexico, the east and west coast and regions surrounding Alaska all need to be opened for additional acreage of exploration. While shale plays, like the Bakken and the Eagle Ford, are adding to the U.S. supply of crude oil, opening additional coastal waters must be part of the energy equation. This past month, two refineries have come back online, producing hundreds of thousands of gallons of gasoline a day. Analysts are predicting this will provide some relief at the pump for residents in the south. Again, this will not solve the U.S.’s greater energy needs.
The EPA and DOE will each have to contribute to the greater goal that the president allegedly desires: less dependence on foreign resources and a greater utilization of our domestic natural resources. While less red tape, a faster permit process, opening additional coastal waters for exploration and cheaper prices at the pump can each drive this nation to true energy security, no one component can be successful without the other. Achieving energy security for the U.S. will be a collaborative effort.