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North American oil, gas reserves put global warming on defense

Published: Tuesday, July 10 2012 2:38 p.m. MDT

In this Monday, Aug. 22, 2011 file photo, environmental activists gather outside the White House in Washington as they continue a civil disobedience campaign against a proposed oil pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast. The plan was blocked by the Obama administration in January 2012 citing environmental grounds. North America is poised to become the dominant player in hydrocarbon exports, according to a new report from the Manhattan Institute.

Associated Press

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Mark Mills, an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute, has a new report confirming and expanding on the emerging conventional wisdom. In short, he argues that not only is there no shortage of carbon fuels worldwide, but North America itself is poised to become a the dominant energy player, supplanting the Middle East.

"In collaboration with Canada and Mexico, the United States could — and should — forge a broad pro-development, pro-export policy to realize the benefits of our hydrocarbon resources," Mills wrote. "Such a policy could lead to North America becoming the largest supplier of fuel to the world by 2030. For the U.S., the single most effective policy change would be to emulate Canada’s solution for permitting major energy projects: create a one-portal, one-permit federal policy for all permits."

Fuel Fix, an online oil industry publication, trumpeted the upscaled investment in U.S. oil production: "The surveyed companies spent $21.7 billion on exploring for oil and natural gas in 2011, a 40 percent increase over the previous year, according to the report. They spent $61.5 billion on developing their reserves, a 37 percent jump from 2010."

Global warming is slipping as a policy emphasis among American voters. According to a recent poll by the Washington Post and Stanford university, "Just 18 percent of those polled name it as their top environmental concern. That compares with 33 percent who said so in 2007, amid publicity about a major U.N. climate report and Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary about global warming. Today, 29 percent identify water and air pollution as the world’s most pressing environmental issue."

The Natural Resources Defense Council sees burgeoning oil exploitation as a leap backward in the battle to control carbon emissions. Referring Canada's proposal to route an oil pipeline through the U.S. heartland, the NRDC blog recently asserted that building the pipeline "would hinder progress to combating global warming."

The NRDC points to this recent report by the Congressional Research Service, which held that "building Keystone XL would be the equivalent of adding at least 4 million new cars to the road."

It's not just global-warming activists who are concerned. The Financial Times reported last month that OPEC is worried that its dominance will be undermined by burgeoning shale reserves in the U.S. and Canada.

In contrast, the Associated Press reports that Exxon CEO Jonthan Fahey is quite unworried about global warming. "We have spent our entire existence adapting. We'll adapt," he said. "It's an engineering problem and there will be an engineering solution."

Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at eschulzke@desnews.com.

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