Congressional Panel Hears Mankin
Resource Paper Taken to Task
By LARRY NATION
AAPG Communications Director
On the same day the U.S. Senate defeated
inclusion of exploration of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge
in the long-debated energy policy, AAPG Secretary Charles J. Mankin
was testifying at a congressional hearing on resource assessment
Mankin's invited testimony before the House Subcommittee
on Energy and Mineral Resources took to task a recent RAND paper
that is proposing "viable resource" as a new category for resource
The RAND paper, funded by the William and Flora Hewlett
Foundation for the Wilderness Society, said the viable resource
"is a fraction of the technically recoverable resource that is also
economically feasible for production, sufficiently supported by
infrastructure and environmentally acceptable."
Mankin's testimony took issue with the paper's proposal.
"It is AAPG's firm belief that technically recoverable
resource is the correct base to use when making policy on competing
use of federal lands." he said.
"Viability speaks directly to changes in costs, prices,
accessibility and technology," Mankin continued. " After all, at
one time none of modern inventions that we take for granted -- the
telephone, or the computer or the airplane -- were 'viable.'
"More specifically to the oil and gas industry,"
he said, "drilling and producing in 10,000 feet of water, or multilateral
drilling to access resource from a central point or commercial production
of coalbed methane were not considered 'viable' at one time.
"Thus, we believe that viability hinges on market
and market need drives technological innovation."
Mankin reiterated the point under questioning by
Rep. Barbara Cubin, (R-Wyo.), chair of the subcommittee, and C.L.
"Butch" Otter (R-Idaho).
David Applegate, government affairs director at the
American Geological Institute, said the most extensive questioning
at the hearing was aimed at the RAND paper defenders, while the
questions to Mankin were of a nature of clarification of the present
resource assessment methods.
Interest in resource assessment methods has increased
since November 2000, when Congress and the Clinton administration
directed an inventory of all onshore federal lands, including estimates
of their oil and gas resources and any obstacles to developing them.
Interior Secretary Gale Norton said last year that
the Bush administration would consider opening some currently off-limits
areas of the Rocky Mountains to oil and gas drilling as part of
a broad review of untapped energy resources.
The Interior Department gave the Bureau of Land Management
and other agencies until the end of April to gather data on the
potential oil and natural gas reserves in the five Rocky Mountain
basins, and until November to study the impact of developing them.
The five basins being targeted for study are:
- The Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana.
- The Green River Basin in Wyoming and Colorado.
- The Uinta-Piceance Basin in Utah and Colorado.
- The San Juan-Paradox Basin in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.
- The Montana Thrust Belt.
Cubin called the Rockies "a frontier gas province"
that ought to be opened more to entrepreneurs.
"Government must allow dry holes to be drilled by
risk-takers searching for the next giant field to replace our declining
domestic production," Cubin said.
The AAPG testimony was prepared by Mankin, Naresh
Kumar, of the AAPG Committee on Resource Evaluation, and Lee Gerhard,
of the Division of Professional Affairs' Government Action Committee.
Mankin also took the opportunity to reiterate other
AAPG energy policy recommendations, including access to explore
federal lands, stating that the U.S. citizens' "needs are ill-served"
- Insisting that we have ample sources of energy while putting
restrictions on its supply.
- That we use more natural gas while shutting areas from where
the gas might come.
- Insistence that we use alternative energy sources while having
no viable alternative source in the near future.
- Insistence that oil and gas development by definition spoils
the environment are otherwise.
The U.S. House has passed energy policy measures
that included ANWR exploration. Mankin was testifying just before
the Senate, on the other side of the Capitol, was voting ANWR out
of the U.S. energy equation.