The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

November 18, 2012

Gas drilling dilemma in U.S.

(Continued)

PITTSBURGH —

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is conducting one major national review of drilling and potential drinking water impacts, but it won’t be finished until 2014.

Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, which lobbies for the industry in Washington, is hoping Obama’s campaign rhetoric doesn’t change.

“He has evolved on the oil and the gas issue, and today, he gives it a full-throated endorsement in terms of the need to produce it to create jobs, get our economy back on track,” Gerard said in a postelection conference call.

Most experts agree that Obama faces four big choices about the gas boom: whether to back nationwide EPA rules; whether to keep pressuring coal-fired power plants to reduce emissions (which benefits gas as an alternative fuel); whether to allow large-scale exports of liquefied natural gas; and whether to support a national push to use compressed gas in commercial vehicles.

One expert in Texas predicted that Obama won’t go to extremes.

“I don’t think the administration will do anything to halt development,” said Kenneth Medlock III, a professor at Rice University’s Center for Energy Studies in Houston, adding that there will be “some attempts” to move regulations into federal hands.

Medlock expects Obama to keep the pressure on the coal industry, but go slowly on the natural gas export issue. The industry says exports have the potential to be highly profitable, but some members of Congress fear exports will just drive up domestic prices, depriving consumers and other industries of the benefits of cheap natural gas.

Others see an opportunity for the president to stake out a middle ground.

“A lot of the industry guys are pretty shaken by the anti-fracking movement,” said Michael Shellenberger, president of the Breakthrough Institute, an Oakland nonprofit that promotes new ways to address environmental issues. “That might make them a bit more open to regulatory oversight.”

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