Fresh­en­ing prospects for off­shore en­ergy

An all-of-the-above ap­proach in­cludes wind with oil and gas

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Ran­dall Luthi Ran­dall Luthi is the pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Ocean In­dus­tries As­so­ci­a­tion.

It’s of­fi­cial: Off­shore en­ergy is about more than oil and nat­u­ral gas in the United States. With op­er­a­tions ex­pected to be­gin soon at the Block Is­land Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Is­land, the coun­try will soon tap the power of off­shore wind to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity for the very first time.

Block Is­land is the van­guard of a new ap­proach to ex­pand­ing the coun­try’s off­shore en­ergy port­fo­lio. The po­ten­tial of off­shore wind is enor­mous. Wind blows off ev­ery coast, from Maine down to Florida and around the Gulf to the Mex­i­can bor­der, and from San Diego north to Seat­tle. Some of the strong­est winds can be found off the coasts of Alaska and Hawaii. And since most of our ma­jor pop­u­la­tion cen­ters are lo­cated near or along coast­lines, the dis­tance be­tween the en­ergy and de­mand is rel­a­tively short.

The Block Is­land project is an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of how an “all-of-the-above” ap­proach to en­ergy pro­duc­tion can lead to an af­ford­able, re­li­able and di­verse mix of re­sources to power our na­tion’s fu­ture. And the U.S. En­ergy In­for­ma­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion projects we will need more of all forms of off­shore en­ergy, both tra­di­tional and re­new­able, to meet grow­ing U.S. and global en­ergy de­mands in the com­ing decades.

To its credit, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has been laser­fo­cused on fa­cil­i­tat­ing the birth and growth of off­shore wind devel­op­ment. But in or­der to strike the cor­rect en­ergy bal­ance, the in­com­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion should look for ways to fa­cil­i­tate rather than thwart, the devel­op­ment of new sources of off­shore oil and nat­u­ral gas. The Fis­cal Year 2017 In­te­rior and En­vi­ron­ment Ap­pro­pri­a­tions bill, passed by the House in July, is a good model. In ad­di­tion to smart pol­icy pro­vi­sions that sup­port ac­cess to new fed­eral off­shore ar­eas, the bill keeps ex­ist­ing ar­eas, in­clud­ing off­shore Alaska, open for con­tin­ued ex­plo­ration.

By keep­ing At­lantic and east­ern Gulf of Mex­ico wa­ters open to re­search and ex­plo­ration us­ing mod­ern seis­mic sur­veys, we can also fur­ther our un­der­stand­ing of Amer­ica’s true off­shore en­ergy po­ten­tial. The bill right­fully keeps Gulf of Mex­ico En­ergy Se­cu­rity Act funds in states that host off­shore en­ergy devel­op­ment, pre­vents fur­ther im­ple­men­ta­tion of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ocean zon­ing ex­ec­u­tive or­der, and al­lows for the con­tin­ued use of en­vi­ron­men­tally safe well-stim­u­la­tion tech­niques off­shore Cal­i­for­nia.

The Block Is­land Wind Farm is a re­mark­able first step for Amer­ica’s emerg­ing off­shore wind in­dus­try and is a step in the right di­rec­tion to­wards a truly all of the-above off­shore en­ergy port­fo­lio con­sist­ing of both tra­di­tional and re­new­able en­ergy sources. I am proud that two of our or­ga­ni­za­tion’s mem­bers, both of which are tra­di­tion­ally ac­tive in the oil and gas in­dus­try, con­trib­uted to this his­toric achieve­ment. Gulf Is­land Fab­ri­ca­tion con­structed the tur­bine foun­da­tions off­site in the Gulf of Mex­ico, and Montco Off­shore ves­sels helped in­stall the wind­farm off of Rhode Is­land, demon­strat­ing that off­shore oil and gas com­pa­nies and off­shore wind com­pa­nies can sup­port, rather than com­pete with, each other.

In­deed, there is room off­shore for fos­sil fuel devel­op­ment and re­new­able en­ergy devel­op­ment along­side a thriv­ing fish­ing and re­cre­ational in­dus­try, if pol­i­cy­mak­ers at the state and fed­eral lev­els con­tinue to sup­port ef­forts to im­prove the na­tion’s en­ergy se­cu­rity through an all-of-the-above ap­proach to en­ergy pro­duc­tion.

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