Thursday, July 12, 2012
(Glendive, MT – YPR) – A company that provides drilling fluids for the oil industry says transportation is the reason why it chose to locate its Bakken Oil operations in a small Eastern Montana community.
“We depend so much on trucking,” says Joe Bowen, area manager of The Mud Master’s Group. “That’s the only reason why we’re not in Billings.” He says four to five semi trucks a day, loaded with Mud Master products, leaves the Glendive facility daily for the Bakken oil fields.
Mud Masters provides drilling mud and other products. The company has facilities in Texas, Louisiana Oklahome, West Virginia, and now Montana. The Bakken oil fields in Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota is the secondlargest oil play in the U.S.
Bowen says he had to convince his bosses to locate a facility in Glendive over Billings. According to the 2010 census, the population of the city of Glendive is 4,935 people, while the population of the city of Billings (the state’s largest city) is 104,180 people.
“I considered Billings hard,” says Bowen who still has a home in Billings, as well as in Glendive. “I lived in Billings when Mud Masters wanted to expand into North Dakota. I wouldn’t live in North Dakota. I’m from Montana. I live in Montana.”
“I’m just as close in Glendive to every drilling rig in the Bakken as a business in Williston, North Dakota is,” he says.
To illustrate his point, Bowen draws an equilateral triangle on the chalkboard in his Glendive office. At each point, he writes: Glendive, Williston, and Dickinson; on each line he writes 98 miles. By contrast, Billings is another 220 miles to the West of Glendive or at least 3 ½ hours of driving time on I-94.
“By the time a truck leaves Billings and comes to the Bakken and delivers, before the driver can get home he runs out of time,” Bowen says. The distance from Billings to Williston is about 320 miles or just over 5 hours via I-94. Then there’s additional time and distance to the drilling rigs that dot the oil fields.
Bowen says Billings has the infrastructure, housing, shopping and other amenities that the smaller communities of Glendive and other Eastern Montana communities don’t. “But we depend so much on trucking,” he says. “That’s the only reason we’re not in Billings.”
Bowen says Billings remains vital to his company, however, because of its airport. The Glendive office has eight full-time employees who live in the area, he says. The remaining 10 rotate in and out from Texas, Louisiana, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. All will fly into Billings and either drive or board Silver Airways (provided by Gulfstream International Airlines), the Essential Air Service provider to rural Montana.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
(Sidney, MT and Williston, ND – YPR) – The amount of semi-truck traffic in the Bakken oil field communities is stunning.
“It isn’t uncommon that you will come through here (intersection in Williston) and see that the trucks will be backed up for a mile,” says Williston Economic Development Executive Director Tom Rolfstad. “They all have to take a left hand turn here, so it gets to be a real bottleneck.”
Williston officials want to create a truck route to divert semi traffic around the community.
“You can see the ration of trucks here,” Rolfstad says. “We are approaching 40% truck traffic on our roads. The highway engineers say 12% truck traffic is considered to be high.”
The volume of the semi traffic is undermining the road beds under paved and gravel roads. The roads designed to handle just moderate truck and farm traffic, since both Sidney, Montana and Williston, North Dakota are agriculture-based communities.
Richland Economic Development Executive Director Leslie Messer in Sidney says in the Spring when gravel roads are slick and muddy, the farmers most likely will idle their tractors.
“This industry (oil) doesn’t stop,” she says. “They’re dragging. They’re pushing. They are pulling. They are thrashing the (road) beds if they can’t get in there.”
Messer says it will take about 2,200 semi loads to service 1 oil well over that well’s lifetime. Most of the activity is in the drilling phase when loads of water, sand, pipe, and other materials are delivered to the site.
She says some of the oil companies are repairing the damage they cause to the roads otherwise its up to local government as part of its road maintenance program.
“We’ve built lots of roads for Richland County. Glad to do so,” says Russell Atkins, area production manager of the Bakken Operations for Continental Resources. “We needed the road to that (oil) well.”
He says in instances where there is no road but Richland County had the right-of-way, Continental would build a road and leave the maintenance to the counties in Montana and North Dakota. The affected counties are looking to their respective state Capitols and the federal Transportation Rea-authorization bill to help pay for the costs of building and maintaining affected oil patch roads.
“All that we ask is once it is built up and the drilling activity has subsided please maintain it. We’re glad to build it,” he says. “We get a few that think, ‘well, you are just going to build it, maintain it, and do everything from now on.’ It doesn’t work quite like that,” Atkins says.
Atkins says the oil companies are working at a furious pace to lock up leases with production wells. He says 90% of the work remains. Atkins calls the Bakken oil play world class. He places this portion of the Williston Basin right up with reserves in Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
“Our estimates of recoverable oil is 24 billion barrels. That’s 20 of oil and 4 of barrels of oil equivalent of natural gas. To do this is going to take 48,000 wells,” he says.
Besides all of the semi-truck activity needed to carry out that work, there’s also an increase of pick-up truck traffic, notes Williston Economic Development’s Tom Rolfstad.
“This is kinda a big ass pickup with a welding unit on the back,” says Rolfstad. “You kinda look like a wimp if you come here driving a Kia or a Subaru.”
Monday, June 18, 2012
(Sidney, MT and Williston, ND – YPR) - The Bakken oil fields brought an influx of people and activity to across Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota. Oil industry officials say the Bakken reserves have made North Dakota the #2 oil producing state behind Texas.
The Sidney Area Chamber of Commerce says agriculture is the predominant industry in the northeast Montana community. Oil wells are often tucked among sugar beet or wheat fields.
Small agriculture communities, like Sidney near the Montana-North Dakota border, were not prepared for the rapid increase in population. There's a shortage of affordable houses for sale or rent. Even the local motels and hotels are full forcing many working in the oil patch to live in their vehicles, tents, campers or RV's
Some workers are able to find housing in "man camps," but only when they are on shift. The oil companies reserve rooms at the Williston North Lodge for workers during their shift. Workers shed their coveralls and work boots in the "mud room" at the lodge entrance.
The rooms resemble a college dorm room, with a bed, small table, a small closet for personal belongings, and there's a shared bathroom. Deluxe rooms are a little larger with a private bathroom. The lodge, run by Target Logistics, provides 24/7 dining, recreation room, wireless internet/computer room, convenience store, housekeeping, and self-serve laundry.
Economic development officials say the Bakken Oil development has also brought an increase in semi-truck traffic through Williston. Tom Rolfstad, executive director of economic development for the city of Williston, says 40% of the vehicles on the road are semis. "The highway engineers say that 12% truck traffic is considered to be high," he says.
Semi-truck traffic delivers pipe, water, and other materials needed to drill and maintain a well. Lynn Helms, director of North Dakota's Mineral Resources Division, recently said it can take up to 1,000 semi loads to drill and frack (hydraulic fracturing) each well in the Bakken oil play.
Semis are also used to transport crude from the production fields to rail loading facilities. The lack of pipeline capacity means companies are relying on other means to get crude to refineries.
The proposed Keystone X-L Pipeline project seeks to provide an "on-ramp" for Bakken crude to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast.
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
(Billings, MT – YPR) – The panel charged with reviewing all pipelines that cross Montana’s rivers and streams in the wake of last year’s ExxonMobil oil pipeline break into the Yellowstone River is to issue its final report to Governor Brian Schweitzer this summer.
Schweitzer, D-MT, issued an executive order creating the review council after the Silvertip Pipeline ruptured last July releasing an estimated 1,000 barrels of crude into the Yellowstone River.
Officials think floodwaters scoured the bottom of the Yellowstone River, exposing the pipeline. Exxon Mobil estimated the spill clean up costs at about $135 million dollars.
Schweitzer directed the Montana Oil Pipeline Safety Review Council to assess the risk of ruptures and leaks for each pipeline that crosses a Montana waterway, including the pipeline’s location and the condition of emergency shut-off valves.
“We now have at our fingertips information on where those pipelines are and who they belong to,” says Bonnie Lovelace, regulatory affairs manager for the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. She says key pieces of information are the locations of shut-off valves and whether companies have the latest technology for leak-detection.
“Which means pipeline companies having their control rooms watching those valves and having alarms that tell them that there’s a problem,” she says. Then quickly shutting down the flow.
Lovelace says one result of the review was the creation of an interactive Montana Pipeline Safety Map. She says the data came from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) from information from pipeline owners and operators. She says the database also includes: aerial photographs, topographic maps, property boundaries/ownership, wells, and monitoring stations.
Lovelace says one of the most significant lessons leaned from the Silvertip Pipeline break was the need for information.
“After realizing such a thing could happen, every body’s concerned about could it happen again,” she says. “Are there things we can do to be ready or to essentially prevent a further incident that we had on the Yellowstone River?”
Lovelace says that means working cooperatively with and supporting the U-S Transportation Department’s PHMSA, which regulates the nation’s 2.3 million miles of pipelines.
In the wake of the Silvertip Pipeline rupture, opponents called for tougher state and federal regulations for the proposed Keystone X-L pipeline project. The 1,700 mile pipeline proposal would transport crude from tar sand oil fields in Alberta, Canada and the Bakken Oil Fields in eastern Montana and western North Dakota to refineries on the U-S Gulf coast. The Obama Administration denied TransCanada’s permit last January on the grounds the congressionally mandated deadline did not give federal officials enough time to evaluate the proposal. TransCanada has since offered a shorter pipeline project from Cushing, OK to Port Arthur, TX, including a new route through Nebraska that skirts that state’s environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region and the Ogallala acquifer, the main water source for Nebraska residents.
In Montana, the Pipeline Safety Review Council identified 9,206 pipeline river crossings in Montana. “So we have lots and lots of network of pipelines throughout Montana,” she says. “It’s like a spider web.”
The Pipeline Safety Review Council is made up of the directors of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, The Montana Department of Transportation, and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.
The panel made 6 recommendations. Public comments on the report will be accepted until June 27, 2012. The Pipeline Safety Review Council plans to deliver a final report to the governor July 18, 2012.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Bob Reiss talks about Shell oil’s plans to sink exploratory wells in the waters off the North Slope of Alaska—a site that the company believes contains three times as much oil as the Gulf of Mexico. To write The Eskimo and the Oil Man: The Battle at the Top of the World for America's Future he traveled in America's High North over three years and spent time with scientists, diplomats, military planners, Eskimo whale hunters, and officials at the highest levels of the government to explore the issues dividing every American community wrestling with the balance between energy use and environmental protection, our love of cheap gas and the romance of pristine wilderness.
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
(New York, NY -- Stephen Reader, It'sAFreeCountry.Org) The Obama administration will auction off more than 38 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico to oil companies next month, touting the sale as a boon for the president’s energy résumé — which, while boasting increased domestic production, remains haunted by high gas prices, offshore drilling bans and one big oil spill.
The lease sale, scheduled to take place in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on June 20th, will allow companies to secure more available acres off the coast of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The sale won’t, however, open up any new waters for drilling that weren’t previously approved by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s current five-year lease plan, which expires at the end of 2012.
Currently, the Department of the Interior only leases acres in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska. Oil companies, Republicans on Capitol Hill, and the man running to beat Obama all wish that list were longer.
Read the rest of the story here.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
A June auction of over 38 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for drilling may look nice on the President's energy résumé, but leaves oil companies and Republicans wanting more.
Wednesday, May 02, 2012
Friday, April 20, 2012
Abrahm Lustgarten, reporter at ProPublica and author of Run to Failure: BP and the Making of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster, reflects on the errors leading up to the spill, and its ramifications a year after the catastrophe.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
By Kate Hinds
The House will vote tomorrow on whether to extend transportation funding another three months -- but President Obama has already threatened to veto it over language mandating approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
The White House said in a strongly worded statement Tuesday "because this bill circumvents a longstanding and proven process for determining whether cross-border pipelines are in the national interest by mandating the permitting of the Keystone XL pipeline before a new route has been submitted and assessed, the President’s senior advisors would recommend that he veto this legislation."
Wednesday, April 04, 2012
Thursday, March 29, 2012
The president has been teetering between supporting pipelines and gunning for green energy -- today, he's slamming big oil, as the Senate prepares to vote on legislation to repeal oil tax subsidies.
Here's a transcript of his remarks. (Watch him deliver them live here)
Good morning. Today, Members of Congress have a simple choice to make. They can stand with big oil companies, or they can stand with the American people.
Right now, the biggest oil companies are raking in record profits – profits that go up every time folks like these pull into a gas station. But on top of these record profits, oil companies are also getting billions a year in taxpayer subsidies – a subsidy they’ve enjoyed year after year for the last century.
Think about that. It’s like hitting the American people twice. You’re already paying a premium at the pump right now. And on top of that, Congress thinks it’s a good idea to send billions more of your tax dollars to the oil industry?
It’s not like these are companies that can’t stand on their own. Last year, the three biggest U.S. oil companies took home more than $80 billion in profit. Exxon pocketed nearly $4.7 million every hour. And when the price of oil goes up, prices at the pump go up, and so do these companies’ profits. In fact, one analysis shows that every time gas goes up by a penny, these companies usually pocket another $200 million in quarterly profits. Meanwhile, these companies pay a lower tax rate than most other companies on their investments – partly because we’re giving them billions in tax giveaways every year.
Now, we all know that drilling for oil has to be a key part of our energy strategy. And we want our oil companies to succeed. That’s why under my administration, we’ve opened up millions of acres of federal lands and waters to oil and gas production. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating oil rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough oil and gas pipeline to circle the Earth and then some. And just yesterday, we announced the next step for potential new oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic.
The fact is, we’re producing more oil right now than we have in eight years, and we’re importing less of it too. For two years in a row, America has bought less oil from other countries than we produce here at home – for the first time in over a decade. Simply put, American oil is booming.
So the oil industry is doing just fine. With record profits and rising production, I’m not worried about the big oil companies. With high oil prices, they’ve got more than enough incentive to produce more. I think it’s time they got by without more help from taxpayers who are having a tough enough time paying their bills and filling up their tanks. And I think it’s curious that some of the folks in Congress who are the first to belittle investments in new sources of energy are the ones fighting the hardest to keep these giveaways for big oil companies.
Instead of taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s never been more profitable, we should be using that money to double-down on investments in clean energy technologies that have never been more promising. Investments in wind power and solar power and biofuels; in fuel-efficient cars and trucks and homes and buildings. That’s the future. That’s the only way we’ll break this cycle of high gas prices that happens year after year after year.
We can’t just drill our way out of this problem. We use more than 20% of the world’s oil, but we only have 2% of the world’s known oil reserves. That means we could drill every drop of American oil tomorrow – but we’d still have to buy oil from other countries to make up that difference. We’d still have to depend on other countries to meet our energy needs.
That is not the future I want for America. I don’t want folks like these to have to pay more at the pump every time there’s unrest in the Middle East. I don’t want our kids to be held hostage to events on the other side of the world. In America, we control our own destiny. We forge our own future.
That’s why as long as I am President, America will pursue an all-of-the-above energy strategy.
Yes, we’ll continue to develop our oil and gas resources in a responsible way. But we’ll keep developing more advanced, homegrown biofuels, like the kinds that are already powering truck fleets across America.
We’ll keep investing in clean energy, like the wind power and solar power that’s already lighting thousands of homes and creating thousands of jobs.
We’ll keep manufacturing more cars and trucks that get more miles to the gallon so that you can fill up less.
We’ll keep building more homes and businesses that waste less energy so that you’re in charge of your energy bills.
And we will do all of this by harnessing our most inexhaustible resource of all – American ingenuity and imagination.
That’s where we need to keep going. That’s what’s at stake right now. That’s the choice we face.
And that’s the choice facing Congress today. They can either vote to spend billions of dollars on oil subsidies that keep us trapped in the past. Or they can vote to end these taxpayer subsidies so that we can invest in the future. It’s that simple.
As long as I’m President, I’ll put my faith in the future. And the people I’ve talked to around the country – the people here with us today – they put their faith in the future, too. Because we’re Americans. That’s what we do. That’s who we are. We innovate. We discover. We seek new solutions to our oldest challenges. And we succeed. I believe we can do it again. And today, the American people are going to be watching to see if their Members of Congress believe that too.
Friday, March 23, 2012
Energy independence has the potentitial to completely reshape American foreign policy and the U.S. economy, yet environmental concerns persist. We're joined by Clifford Krauss, oil and gas business reporter for our partner The New York Times, to discuss the possibility of energy independence.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Yesterday, President Obama kicked off a two-day tour to highlight his administration’s energy strategy, which includes a stop in a small city called Cushing. If you aren’t from Oklahoma, you might not know about Cushing, or why it factors into the president’s energy plans. Ben Allen, a reporter from affiliate station KOSU in Oklahoma City, is here to explain. Carol O’Dell owned a ranch just outside Cushing, and she’s still a regular visitor to the town.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
(Dave Fehling -- Texas, StateImpact/KUHF) Just about everyone I talked to for this story wanted to make one thing very clear: "I want people to understand, we are happy to have the energy industry in Texas," said John Casey of the Texas Department of Transportation.
Why would John Casey think anyone might believe otherwise? Because Casey sees firsthand what the energy industry is doing to his roads. "There'll be a crater in the road, it might be five or ten feet wide and it could be a foot deep, all of sudden just appears."
He's talking about the rapid deterioration of state-maintained roads and highways, even freeways, in the Corpus Christi area. That's where Casey is the district engineer for TxDOT.
"Roads that used to have five vehicles a week now have a hundred trucks rolling on them in a day, or an hour. So it's a pretty significant change," he says. The trucks DeWitt County, (like the one heard in the audio version of this story rolling down a rutted road) are going to and from drilling rigs. In the past several years, energy companies have been drilling thousands of new oil and gas wells here and elsewhere in Texas. The drilling operations use truckloads of water, sand and chemicals. According to TxDOT, drilling the average well now requires over a thousand truck trips.
In the farm and ranch areas of south Texas, the roads were built for pickups and produce trucks, not tankers. Yet, while the drilling boom here may be ripping up roads, it's also a huge boost to local economies, tripling sales tax revenues in just one year for some local governments. It's happening in other parts of the state as well.
"There are homes that have drilling activities going on within 600 to 1200 feet," says Mayor Robert Cluck of Arlington.
Mayor Cluck and the city council began to worry. With 340 gas wells now drilled in Arlington and more on the way, what would happen if one of them had a blowout, resulting in an explosion and fire? The city decided to create a special team within its fire department.
"We approved the other night an emergency response center. It would have six new officers specially trained in gas drilling incidents," he said.
To pay for it, council approved a fee: $2,400 dollars per year per well to be paid by energy companies. Fire chief Don Crowson explained, "that's how this fee has materialized. It's kept the responsibility for the safety of these sites on the industry, not necessarily on the taxpayer."
Arlington was in essence copying what already is happening in South Texas: counties there are charging the energy companies thousands of dollars per well to pay for road damage. And now, Texas may be getting in on the act. TxDOT has just formed a task force to meet with energy companies. TxDOT says it has to find a way to fund what could be hundreds of millions of dollars to fix damaged state roads. Mari Ruckel represents the drilling industry.
"The Texas Oil and Gas Association is well aware of the road conditions and concerns that have emerged alongside incredible economic activity and commerce in Texas," he said.
Ruckel says it'll likely be up to the Texas legislature to come up with a way to charge the industry for repairs. The oil and gas industry points out it pays over seven billion dollars a year to Texas and local governments in taxes and royalties. But, the industry has also benefitted from big state tax breaks enacted as the drilling surge began a decade ago. A surge that has brought riches to some communities, but cost them as well.
FURTHER READING: For more on oil drilling's impact on American roads, read this post on Montana's crunch to find more drivers of trucks serving oil companies.
This story was produced by StateImpact a local news reporting project in conjunction with NPR and member stations.
Monday, March 19, 2012
(Billings, MT - YPR) – The State of Montana is adding more commercial drivers license (CDL) examiners to meet the demand for semi-truck drivers to serve what’s becoming the largest oil play in the U.S. The Bakken oil field is located in Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota.
“The oil boom is providing Montanans an opportunity for good paying jobs,” says State Attorney General Steve Bullock in a press release. “I wanted to make sure limited staffing in the Motor Vehicle Division wasn’t holding companies back from hiring Montanans.”
Bullock says the MVD will hire four new people: three CDL examiners and one customer service clerk. Gas tax money will be used in the interim to fund those positions.
Statistics from the Montana MVD show there’s been a 23 percent increase in new CDLs issued since 2009 and a 44 percent increase in CDL renewals. Officials say while the demand for CDLs is statewide, a significant portion of that increase is from Eastern Montana.
“It’s a statewide problem intensified that much more by the Bakken,” says Bullock. “So we’re focusing on some additional resources in the Sidney-Glasgow-Glendive [area of Eastern Montana], but it’s also important that someone in Missoula can get their CDL that much quicker because they’re going to be working right there out of Missoula or they’re going to be going over to the Bakken.”
To help deal with the backlog of CDL skills exams in Eastern Montana, officials are adjusting staffing and schedules. Officials expect that will provide 18 more skills tests a month. Each exam takes at least two hours. In addition, Bullock says 5 existing employees will be upgraded to CDL examiners.
Wednesday, March 07, 2012
Continuing to push his energy agenda in the key swing state of North Carolina, President Obama Wednesday said more fuel efficient trucks will be able to save $15,000 a year -- and reduce oil consumption by more than 12 billion barrels.
Tell congress "we’re tired of hearing phony election-year promises that never come about," the President told a rowdy crowd. " What we need is a serious, sustained, all-of-the-above strategy for American-made energy, American-made efficiency, American innovation, American fuel-efficient trucks, American fuel-efficient cars. We may not get there in one term --" President Obama said, before being interrupted with chants of "Four more years!" -- "It's going to take us a whole to wean ourselves off the old and grab the new. But we're going to meet this challenge because we are Americans!"
Here's the full transcript:
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
Daimler Truck Manufacturing Plant
Mount Holly, North Carolina
12:50 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, North Carolina! (Applause.) Hello, Mount Holly! (Applause.) Thank you, Juan, for that introduction. I did not know he was a preacher. (Laughter.) He must be at least a deacon. (Laughter.) I was hearing -- "Welll" -- (Laughter.) He was starting to get the spirit up here. I'm going to take Juan on the road to introduce me everywhere. (Laughter.) Can I hear an "amen"?
THE PRESIDENT: Amen.
I want to thank Mark Hernandez, Ricky McDowell -- (applause) -- and Martin Daum for hosting us and being such great tour guides. Thank you so much, everybody. Give them a big round of applause. (Applause.)
We've got a few outstanding North Carolinians in the house. You've got your Governor, Bev Perdue, is here. (Applause.) Your mayors, Bryan Hough and Anthony Foxx are here. (Applause.) Two outstanding Congressmen, Mel Watt and Heath Shuler are here. (Applause.) Thank you all for being here.
It is good to be in North Carolina. Anthony Foxx pointed out that I decided to wear a tie that could be a Tar Heel -- (applause) -- but it's got a little Duke color in there, too.
AUDIENCE: Booo --
THE PRESIDENT: I didn’t want to get in trouble with anybody, so I was hedging my bets. (Laughter.)
I always tell people I am one of the best advertisers for North Carolina. I love this state. (Applause.) Love this state. Everybody here is so nice, so welcoming. Even the folks who don't vote for me, they're nice to me. They usually wave five fingers. (Laughter.) So it's just a great pleasure.
And I just had a chance to see some of the folks who are doing the work here today. I couldn't be more impressed. Some people have been here -- like Juan -- 32 years, 25 years. Some folks have been here for four months, or six months, have just gotten hired. But everybody had such pride in their work.
And the Freighterline trucks that you’re making here at this plant run on natural gas, and that makes them quieter, it makes them better for the environment, it makes them cheaper to fill up than they would be with diesel. I hear you sold your 1,000th natural gas truck last November -– (applause) -- the first company to reach that milestone. And it was made right here in Mount Holly. (Applause.) And last year, this plant added more than 1,000 workers, hiring back a lot of folks who were laid off during the recession. (Applause.) That is something to be proud of.
Now, here at Daimler, you're not just building trucks. You're building better trucks.
AUDIENCE: That’s right.
THE PRESIDENT: You're building trucks that use less oil. And you know that’s especially important right now because most of you have probably filled up your gas tank a time or two in the last week, and you've seen how quickly the price of gas is going up. A lot of you may have to drive a distance to work. Higher gas prices are like a tax straight out of your paycheck.
And for companies that operate a whole fleet of trucks, the higher costs can make a big difference in terms of the profitability of the company.
Now, here's the thing, though -- this is not the first time we've seen gas prices spike. It's been happening for years. Every year, about this time, gas starts spiking up, and everybody starts wondering, how high is it going to go? And every year, politicians start talking when gas prices go up. They get out on the campaign trail -- and you and I both know there are no quick fixes to this problem -- but listening to them, you'd think there were.
As a country that has 2 percent of the world's oil reserves, but uses 20 percent of the world's oil -- I'm going to repeat that -- we've got 2 percent of the world oil reserves; we use 20 percent. What that means is, as much as we're doing to increase oil production, we're not going to be able to just drill our way out of the problem of high gas prices. Anybody who tells you otherwise either doesn’t know what they’re talking about or they aren’t telling you the truth.
Here is the truth. If we are going to control our energy future, then we’ve got to have an all-of-the-above strategy. We’ve got to develop every source of American energy -- not just oil and gas, but wind power and solar power, nuclear power, biofuels. We need to invest in the technology that will help us use less oil in our cars and our trucks, in our buildings, in our factories. That’s the only solution to the challenge. Because as we start using less, that lowers the demand, prices come down. It's pretty straightforward. That’s the only solution to this challenge.
And that’s the strategy that we’ve now been pursuing for the last three years. And I’m proud to say we’ve made progress.
Since I took office, America’s dependence on foreign oil has gone down every single year. In fact, in 2010, it went under 50 percent for the first time in 13 years.
You wouldn’t know it from listening to some of these folks out here -- (laughter) -- some of these folks -- (laughter) -- but a key part of our energy strategy has been to increase safe, responsible oil production here at home. Under my administration, America is producing more oil today than any time in the last eight years. Under my administration, we’ve quadrupled the number of operating oilrigs to a record high. We’ve got more oilrigs operating now than we’ve ever seen. We’ve opened up millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration. We’ve approved more than 400 drilling permits that follow new safety standards after we had that mess down in the Gulf.
We’re approving dozens of new pipelines. We just announced that we’ll do whatever we can to speed up construction of a pipeline in Oklahoma that’s going to relieve a bottleneck and get more oil to the Gulf -- to the refineries down there -- and that’s going to help create jobs, encourage more production.
So these are the facts on oil production. If somebody tells you we’re not producing enough oil, they just don’t know the facts.
But how much oil we produce here at home, because we only have 2 percent and we use 20, that’s not going to set the price of gas worldwide, or here in the United States. Oil is bought and sold on the world market. And the biggest thing that’s causing the price of oil to rise right now is instability in the Middle East. You guys have been hearing about what’s happening with Iran; there are other oil producers that are having problems. And so people have gotten uncertain. And when uncertainty increases, then sometimes you see speculation on Wall Street that drives up gas prices even more.
But here's the thing. Over the long term, the biggest reason oil prices will go up is there's just growing demand in countries like China and India and Brazil. There are a lot of people there. In 2010 alone, China added nearly 10 million cars on its roads. Think about that -- 2010, 10 million new cars. People in China, folks in India, folks in Brazil -- they're going to want cars, too, as their standard of living goes up, and that means more demand for oil, and that's going to kick up the price of oil worldwide. Those numbers are only going to get bigger over time.
So what does that mean for us? It means we can't just keep on relying on the old ways of doing business. We can't just rely on fossil fuels from the last century. We've got to continually develop new sources of energy.
And that’s why we've made investments that have nearly doubled the use of clean, renewable energies in this country. And thousands of Americans have jobs because of it. It also means we’ve got to develop the resources that we have that are untapped, like natural gas. We're developing a near hundred-year supply of natural gas -– and that's something that we expect could support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade.
And that’s why we've worked with the private sector to develop a high-tech car battery that costs half as much as other batteries and can go up to 300 miles on a single charge. Think about that. That will save you some money at the pump. And that is why we are helping companies like this one right here and plants like this one right here to make more cars and trucks that use less oil.
When I ran for office, I went to Detroit and I gave a speech to automakers where I promised that I was going to raise fuel standards on our cars, so that they’d go further on a gallon of gas. I said we should do the same thing on trucks. I have to tell you, when I said it, I didn't get a lot of applause in the room, because there was a time when automakers were resisting higher fuel standards -- because change isn't easy. But you know what, after three decades of not doing anything, we got together with the oil companies, we got together with the unions, we got together with folks who usually do not see eye to eye, and we negotiated new fuel economy standards that are going to make sure our cars average nearly 55 miles per gallon by the middle of the next decade. That's nearly double what they get today -- nearly double. (Applause.)
Now, because of these new standards for cars and trucks, they're going to -- all going to be able to go further and use less fuel every year. And that means pretty soon you’ll be able to fill up your car every two weeks instead of every week -– and, over time, that saves you, a typical family, about $8,000 a year.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We like that.
THE PRESIDENT: You like that, don't you?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Eight thousand dollars -- that's no joke. We can reduce our oil consumption by more than 12 billion barrels. And thanks to the SuperTruck program that we’ve started with companies like this one, trucks will be able to save more than $15,000 in fuel costs every year. Think about that, $15,000.
It looks like somebody might have fainted up here. Have we got some of the EMS, somebody. Don’t worry about -- folks do this all the time in my meetings. (Laughter.) You’ve always got to eat before you stand for a long time. That’s a little tip. But they'll be okay. Just make sure that -- give them a little room. All right, everybody all right? Okay.
So these trucks can save $15,000 every year. I want people to think about what that means for businesses, what it means for consumers. It is real progress. And it's happening because of American workers and American know-how. It's happening because of you. It's happening because of you.
We’re also making it easier for big companies -- some of your customers, like UPS and FedEx -- to make the shift to fuel-efficient cars and trucks. We call it the National Clean Fleets Partnership. And since we announced it last year, the number of companies that are taking part in it has tripled. And that means more customers for your trucks. (Applause.) We're creating more customers for your trucks.
And I am proud to say that the federal government is leading by example. One thing the federal government has a lot of is cars and trucks. We got a lot of cars and we got a lot of trucks. And so what I did was I directed every department, every agency in the federal government, to make sure that by 2015, 100 percent of the vehicles we buy run on alternative fuels -- 100 percent. (Applause.)
So we’re one of the biggest customers in the world for cars and trucks and we want to set that bar high. We want to set a standard that says by 2015, 100 percent of cars, alternative fuels.
So we’re making progress, Mount Holly. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much natural gas, or flex-fuel or electric vehicles you have if there’s no place to charge them up or fill them up. So that’s why I’m announcing today a program that will put our communities on the cutting edge of what clean energy can do.
To cities and towns all across the country, what we’re going to say is, if you make a commitment to buy more advanced vehicles for your community -- whether they run on electricity or biofuels or natural gas -- we’ll help you cut through the red tape and build fueling stations nearby. (Applause.) And we’ll offer tax breaks to families that buy these cars, companies that buy alternative fuel trucks like the ones that are made right here at Mount Holly. (Applause.) So we’re going to give communities across the country more of an incentive to make the shift to more energy-efficient cars.
In fact, when I was up in New Hampshire, in Nashua, they had already converted all their dump trucks -- they were in a process because of this program -- they were converting it to natural gas-driven trucks.
This is something that we did in education -- we called it Race to the Top. We said we’ll put in more money but we want you to reform. We’re going to give you an incentive to do things in a different way. And if we do the same thing with clean energy, we can save consumers money and we can make sure the economy is more secure. So we’ve got to keep investing in American-made energy and we’ve got to keep investing in the vehicles that run on it. That’s where our future is.
And in order to continue this progress, we’re going to have to make a choice. We’ve got to decide where our priorities are as a country. And that’s up to all of you. And I’ll give you an example. Right now, $4 billion of your tax dollars goes straight to the oil industry every year -- $4 billion in subsidies that other companies don’t get. Now, keep in mind, these are some of the same companies that are making record profits every time you fill up your gas tank. We’re giving them extra billions of dollars on top of near-record profits that they’re already making. Anybody think that’s a good idea?
THE PRESIDENT: Me, neither. (Laughter.) It doesn’t make any sense. The American people have subsidized the oil industry long enough -- they don’t need the subsidies. It’s time to end that taxpayer giveaway to an industry that's never been more profitable, invest in clean energy that's never been more promising. (Applause.)
So I called on Congress, eliminate these subsidies right away. There’s no excuse to wait any longer.
AUDIENCE: That's right!
THE PRESIDENT: And we should put every member of Congress on record: They can stand up for the oil companies or they can stand up for the American people and this new energy future. (Applause.) We can place our bets on the fuel of the past, or we can place our bets on American know-how and American ingenuity and American workers like the ones here at Daimler. (Applause.) That’s the choice we face. That’s what’s at stake right now.
So, in between shifts, get on the phone or email or send a letter or tweet -- (laughter) -- your member of Congress; ask them where they stand on this -- because it will make a difference. And you’ll know where I stand on this. Let’s make sure our voices are heard. The next time you hear some politician trotting out some 3-point plan for $2 gas -- (laughter) -- you let them know, we know better.
THE PRESIDENT: Tell them we’re tired of hearing phony election-year promises that never come about. What we need is a serious, sustained, all-of-the-above strategy for American-made energy, American-made efficiency, American innovation, American fuel-efficient trucks, American fuel-efficient cars. We may not get there in one term --
AUDIENCE: Four more years! (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: It's going to take us a while to wean ourselves off of the old and grab the new. But we're going to meet this challenge because we are Americans. Our destiny is not written for us; it is written by us. We decide what that next chapter is going to be.
THE PRESIDENT: And I'm confident, working with folks like you, the outstanding working people of Mount Holly, of this plant, of North Carolina, of states all across the country, we can pull together, and remind everybody around the world just why it is that the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth.
Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
T. Boone Pickens is an unlikely environmentalist. The native Oklahoman made his fortune in the oil business, and then, in 2008, shifted his focus to America's energy future. The result is the Pickens Plan, an energy policy to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil through alternative energy and natural gas. Pickens will detail his plan at the TED Conference in Long Beach, California, this week, where John Hockenberry is also speaking.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Using the 14th amendment as their basis, many courts have treated corporations as people. Usually these rulings are beneficial to corporations and their larger interests, such as in the Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to endorse candidates like individuals. However, a new case will determine whether or not a corporation can be convicted as an accomplice to a crime against humanity. In Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, Royal Dutch Petroleum and its subsidiary, Shell, are accused of aiding an autocratic regime that brutalized minorities in an oil-rich region of Nigeria.