LIVONIA — In a landmark gathering near Detroit Friday, an unlikely alliance of unions, the energy industry and top staff of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder shared their vision for a new American energy renaissance built on abundant, affordable energy.
“Building Michigan’s Energy Future: How a Smart Energy Policy Will Create Jobs and Power Michigan’s Economy,” focused on how energy production can spark economic growth, increase energy independence, revitalize unions and create thousands of good jobs in the Great Lakes state and across the country.
About 300 people attended the forum, which included leaders of Michigan unions, contractors, investors, industry groups and elected officials. The event featured John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil Co. and founder of Citizens for Affordable Energy; Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America; Valerie Brader, senior policy adviser to Gov. Snyder; David Sowerby, portfolio manager for Loomis, Sayles & Co. and a member of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.; and John Felmy, chief economist of the American Petroleum Institute.
Without increased energy production, the U.S. is on course for an energy crisis. Already, the American Society of Civil Engineers gives our nation’s energy infrastructure a D+ grade, noting that much of our existing pipelines and electrical grid dates to the 1880s and that energy demand will greatly outstrip supply in the near future if more energy is not produced.
Because of an increasing reliance on energy efficiency and renewable energies, coupled with a technology revolution in fields of natural gas and domestic oil, the U.S. is on track to surpass Saudi Arabia in oil production within four years. By 2030, the U.S. could be become entirely energy independent. In just the next seven years, oil and gas recovered through hydraulic fracturing holds the promise of $305 billion in investment and 3.5 million jobs.
“I believe this is a landmark gathering for Michigan and symbolic of a new promising partnership,” O’Sullivan said. “As the economic recovery continues, we believe the energy sector can help solidify growth and even help revitalize the American labor movement.”
Hofmeister, author of Why We Hate the Oil Companies, Straight Talk from an Energy Insider, noted that private capital can power an energy renaissance, but that government must build a framework and enable development. “Twenty-first century prosperity is on the horizon if we have energy investment that leads to a revamping of our entire energy infrastructure,” Hofmeister said. “We must make energy more affordable and have more supply than we have demand. Friday’s forum will be an important step.”
The Snyder administration is a strong advocate for utilizing natural gas supplies. Brader noted that Michigan is on track to reach its mandated goal of producing 10 percent of its energy from renewables (mostly from wind) and has long used hydraulic fracturing to recover natural gas and oil. The state is eager for consistent national policy to move further forward. “I am hopeful that reliability, affordability and environmental protection will be the guideposts of that national roadmap, as they will be for our state,” she said.
Sowerby spoke to how investment in energy development can provide returns for institutions as well as power the economy of Michigan and the country. Felmy underscored the need to develop all energy sources.