BEAVER CREEK — We have every reason to be optimistic about North America’s energy security, said former Secretary of State George Shultz.
Shultz spoke Saturday at the two-day Vail Global Energy Forum in Beaver Creek’s Vilar Center. The forum, which continues today, features leaders from the energy industry and environmental movement, discussing ways to provide more energy for a world population whose appetite is increasing for it, while protecting the world in which we live.
“We have a huge opportunity for much more security than we’ve had in many, many years,” Shultz said.
Energy is a three-legged stool: security, economics and the environment. If you walk away from one, they all fall, Shultz said.
Getting to yes
Shultz pointed to Colorado’s new fracking regulations, making our state the nation’s first to crack down on methane pollution from oil and gas wells.
“Every pound (of methane) put into the air is 86 times more potent than the same amount of carbon dioxide,” Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund told Saturday’s crowd
Last September, Gov. John Hickenlooper put industry and environmental leaders in a room to hammer out strict new regulations. Among Hickenlooper’s requirements was no methane pollution.
By November they had written the country’s strictest pollution regulations, but not without some bumps along the way.
“Everyone in the room wanted to get to yes,” Krupp said. “This gives us massive reductions in air pollution without any unnecessary encumbrances to business.”
Hickenlooper said he wants to help get similar regulations in other Western states.
Krupp said he’s working to get similar regulations across the country.
“You don’t need to make a choice between clean air and clean water and the benefits of energy. You can have it all, but you need to be willing to do things differently,” said Charles Davidson, chairman and CEO of Noble Energy.
North America’s energy
“The agreements reached in Colorado prove that, yes, there are ways to go about fracking technology, and that it can be done properly,” Davidson said.
We should think beyond U.S borders, Shultz said. Canada and Mexico are changing for the better. He called the Keystone pipeline an absolute no brainer.
“That’s oil that doesn’t go through the straits of Hormuz,” he said
Mexico’s reforms in education and industry are going to stick, and when they take hold that country’s energy industry will expand significantly, he said.
“With natural gas in Mexico, we are going to have a new security of supply,” he said. “If you look at it as just North America, we’re looking good. Yes, the world is awash in change, but in North America, we’re in the catbird seat.”
However, he said he is increasingly concerned with how vulnerable our grid is, not only from natural events like Hurricane Sandy, but also from possible terrorist attacks.
Part of the solution is to generate more energy where we use it, instead of depending on transporting energy for vast distances over a complex grid system.
“We are fortunate that we have a golden moment for getting ourselves a secure supply of energy, especially in North America,” Shultz said.
America should lead, but it isn’t
Shultz was born in 1920 and says he has seen remarkable changes in our world. In 1973 during the first Arab oil embargo, and before the country had an energy secretary, he handled the nation’s energy policy.
At the end of World War II ,some gifted people in the Harry Truman administration looked back over two world wars— how vindictive a way the first was settled led to the second, and how 70 million people were killed.
Their conclusion? The world can be a big mess and we’re part of it, Shultz said.
America’s failure to take a world leadership role concerns him, he said.
“When Ronald Reagan stepped off the stage the Cold War was essentially over.
“Now the world is awash in change and it doesn’t have any leadership. It’s ominous. In that framework, what is our energy situation?” Shultz said.
America needs to assert itself and regain its world leadership role, he said.
“It’s time to step up. That doesn’t mean being the world’s policeman or putting the boots on the ground all over the place,” he said. “It means leading with ideas and resources.”
The Reagan administration exhibited that kind of strength, Shultz said.
“When we said we would do something, we did it. But we only used force three times.”
As Secretary of State, Shultz helped the Clean Air Act get started. Then the Arab oil embargo hit the U.S. right in the gas pumps and, since there was no Department of Energy, Shultz became the nation’s defacto energy leader.
Climate change is an observable trend, he said.
“You can observe the emergence of a new ocean in the arctic. That’s not science. That’s an observation. That’s not a one-off event. That’s a trend,” Shultz said.
“Global warming is a reality today, and it’s going to become more so. We need to be paying attention. If we do not do what we can do, we are not doing right by future generations, let alone our own,” Shultz said.