On August 7, the Chamber hosted a breakfast at the Town Point Club in Norfolk featuring Dr. Bernard Weinstein. Attendees listened as Weinstein provided a presentation titled “Charting a Sensible Path to U.S. Energy Security.”
U.S. oil production is rising again and gas production has climbed past its 1970s peak he explained. Weinstein discussed the 2010 Macondo oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, saying that we are still suffering economic consequences from the disaster. The oil lost was the equivalent of three days of U.S. consumption. There were 33 active rigs pre-Macondo; today, there are just 18. Since the lifting of a moratorium, 94 permits have been issued; only 32 for unique new wells; 62 are re-permits or shallow batch. Prior to the spill, the time required for permit approval was 50 days; now it’s an average of 207 days.
Shortly after the oil spill, a moratorium was placed on offshore drilling in Virginia. Weinstein said, “I think the Tidewater area would be a good staging ground for exploration for drilling.”
The U.S.’s current sources of electricity are coal (44.5%), natural gas (23.3%), nuclear (20.2%), hydroelectric (6.8%) other renewable (3.6%), petroleum (1%), other gases (.3%) and other (.3%). Weinstien said, “Coal is not going to go away anytime soon. It’s just too valuable.” He added, “Gas will be competitive with nuclear and coal.” There are about 100 nuclear plants in the U.S., with only one currently under construction. Other countries, such as China, Russia and India, are actively building numerous nuclear plants. He explained that a benefit of nuclear energy is that it has zero carbon footprint.
“The future is in nuclear and natural gas,” he said. “We need to increase domestic energy production,” he added. Weinstein explained that prices consumers pay reflect the supply and demand, but also expectations of future supply and demand.
Renewables, such as wind and solar, “have been oversold,” Weinstein said. “You can’t power a car with wind or solar power.” He said that we can’t rely on renewables, providing an example that showed that when the wind doesn’t blow, it can’t provide energy.
The country has seen robust job growth in the oil and gas industry. From 2006-2011, more than 640,000 jobs have been added to the U.S. economy.
Weinstein’s explained his strategy for domestic energy development includes:
- Acknowledge that fossil fuels will remain the primary energy sources for the foreseeable future.
- Remove unreasonable restrictions on domestic oil and gas development, especially on outer-continental shelf, Federal lands and Alaska
- Rein in subsidies for renewable to subject them to the market test
- Promote the export of domestic energy, especially natural gas
- Avoid tax discrimination on the oil and gas industry
- Approve and expedite construction of Keystone XL
- Increase Federal loan guarantees for nuclear plants
Dr. Weinstein is Associate Director of the Maguire Energy Institute and Adjunct Professor of Business Economics in the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.