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Paul Andersen: Fair Game

Paul Andersen
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

The proposed BLM resource management plan for gas and oil exploration covers more than half a million acres across six western Colorado counties. It includes 27,490 acres in Pitkin County and favorite backyard recreation areas like the Crown, Light Hill and Arbaney-Kittle.

The potential impacts of drilling are enormous, which is why the Wilderness Workshop and a coalition of environmental groups are advocating for limited access, especially in roadless areas.

If you’ve read this column over the years, you know I’ve decried the downsides of energy extraction and consumption vehemently. In the interest of balance, I offer the following.

A few months ago I interviewed Scott Moore, who has been in the natural gas industry for 26 years and knows the business from being involved in marketing, trading, logistics, commodity derivatives, economics, risk management, commercial litigation, project finance and engineering. Since 1991, he’s been with Anadarko, one of the world’s largest natural gas producers and a defendant in a case over the Deep Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Moore is articulate and informed in explaining the industry side of natural gas in a year when energy has become the hot topic for the 2012 presidential race. His views are controversial because they’re reasonable and cogent to today’s national energy picture. He speaks with authority from the market side of demand and production. What follows is from a telephone interview in December.

How should the American public view environmental tradeoffs in energy production?

“Any energy development has local impacts, but there are economic benefits from these activities, like employment and taxes. That’s the meat-and-potatoes side of having a healthy economy. We need to appreciate what makes our lifestyles possible and what makes energy affordable and reliable.”

What should the public demand from energy producers like Anadarko?

“You want a reasonable regulatory environment to give people confidence, and you want companies that consider stewardship as essential.”

How does the gas industry regard communities that consume energy resources while protesting local energy development?

“When a particular community protests, we refer to it as ‘energy colonialism.’ You use energy, but it’s produced somewhere else. There’s a disconnect.”

Fracking, as depicted in the film “Gasland,” is what scares people most.

“Gasland is a good example of environmental sensationalism. It’s frustrating for us because it’s factually inaccurate. The oil and gas commission looked at the film and put out its own conclusions. That was the industry response, but it’s not sexy, so few people see it. For many people, it’s an emotional issue. We try to keep the basis of our outlook in science.”

How does the gas industry deal with negative PR?

“We spend a lot of time in community outreach in the places where we do business, and that takes a tremendous amount of work, to effectively engage. It’s our job to build a sense of trust, to find common ground, to reach reasonable people. We work hard with communities with a long-run view. We’re sensitive to impacts, which is good for business, but it needs to be reasonable. Public acceptance of our operations is our ultimate license to operate.”

How does the industry view the role of alternative fuels?

“More cars are running on natural gas and electricity. Those cars need electrons, so it’s better to get them from natural gas than from coal. Clean, affordable energy is what everybody requires in order to have a decent life.”

How does domestic energy policy relate to foreign energy imports?

“Energy security has multiple facets: economic security, balance of payments, protection from external price hikes. The U.S. has the ability to be mostly resource independent with natural gas and coal.”

Can opponents in the energy debate engage in a constructive dialogue?

“I live in Boulder, and I see both sides of the cultural divide. The more reasoned people are those you seek out. You can reach people, but only with an enormous amount of time and perseverance. If you explain the connection to jobs, economy, lifestyle and regulatory structures, people can come to the rational center.”

What’s the key point that Aspen readers should know?

“That it’s possible to make use of our domestic resources and defend the environment at the same time.”


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