In The News - Text
Senator John Hoeven
On Earth Day, we celebrate all the gifts the world and nature make available to us. We recognize our complete dependence on its bounty. And we acknowledge the need for good stewardship to preserve its fruits for future generations.
In my home state of North Dakota, we are keenly aware of that responsibility. We lead the nation in growing more than a dozen agricultural commodities, generate electricity for ourselves and our neighbors, and produce oil and natural gas for the nation. We are also one of the premier destinations for hunters, anglers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts who appreciate our unspoiled water, beautiful natural landscape and pristine air.
Over the past 10 years, our state has grown — economically and demographically — in large measure because we set forth a deliberate plan to create a good business environment that targeted specific industries: agriculture, energy, advanced manufacturing, technology-based businesses and tourism.
Energy development, notably oil and gas recovery in western North Dakota, has received the most attention lately, but in fact, we have grown our targeted industries across the board. Technology-based businesses and manufacturing are growing steadily, but our top three sectors today are agriculture, energy and tourism — all of which require good stewardship of our environment and respect for the earth. And our record is good. For example, North Dakota meets all of the Environmental Protection Agency’s ambient air quality standards.
A big part of the reason we’ve done well in developing our resources and protecting our environment is technology, which has enabled us to recover more energy with better environmental stewardship. In oil and gas development, for example, new technologies like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing are producing more oil and gas with a smaller environmental footprint. Formerly, it was necessary to drill multiple vertical shafts across the landscape, with the calculated hope that one or another might strike oil.
Today, because of new directional drilling techniques, a single pad can sink eight or 10 shafts 2 miles under the earth. Each is then redirected horizontally in a different direction. There, well below the water table, hydraulic fracturing frees the oil from the shale that holds it and allows it to be recovered. The result is a smaller surface footprint, a better recovery rate and less impact on the environment.
Similarly, we have strongly advocated the building of the Keystone XL pipeline, which will increase the domestic oil supply of the United States by about 830,000 barrels a day, including 100,000 from western North Dakota and Montana. The fact is, America needs energy and new energy infrastructure, and the Keystone XL pipeline will help us achieve that with good stewardship.
Pipelines are by far the safest way to transport petroleum. They are safer than tankers, safer than trucks, safer than rail. Further, 80 percent of all new recovery in Canada’s oil sands is being done “in situ,” meaning it has essentially the same environmental footprint as conventional drilling.
The irony of environmental opposition to the Keystone XL project is that stopping the pipeline to the U.S. will not stop production in the oil sands of Canada. Instead of coming to the United States, the oil will still be produced and shipped by rail or a pipeline similar to the Keystone XL to Canada’s Pacific Coast.
From there, it will be loaded onto massive tankers and shipped across the Pacific Ocean, largely to China, while the United States continues to import oil from the Middle East, again, by tanker. The result will be more greenhouse gas emissions, more risk to ocean environments and undiminished U.S. reliance on a volatile region of the world. In contrast, an Energy Department study of the Keystone XL pipeline completed in 2010 — and confirmed by the State Department’s final environmental impact statement completed in August 2011 — said the Keystone XL pipeline would “not appreciably increase” global greenhouse gases.
Meanwhile, in western North Dakota, we will be forced to continue our reliance on trucking and rail transport, instead of building pipeline-gathering systems that would transport the oil safely underground. If built, the Keystone XL pipeline would take up to 500 trucks a day off North Dakota roads, reducing impacts on infrastructure and making our highways safer.
Oil and gas are only part of North Dakota’s growing energy sector. Our comprehensive plan, Empower North Dakota, promotes all forms of energy: electricity derived from wind; biofuels distilled from the products of the soil, solar, hydro and other renewable resources; as well as coal, oil and gas.
We do it all, and we do it with good environmental stewardship. Nationally, in the decades to come, we and those who come after us will need them all. With each year, technology helps us develop them all with greater sensitivity to the earth and the way we use it so that future generations can inherit a healthy planet.
In my view, that’s what Earth Day is all about — leaving our children the resources they need to live good lives, as well as a better planet.
Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), a former governor, serves on the Senate committees on Energy and Natural Resources; Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; Indian Affairs; and Appropriations.