Energy expert says it's time for federal boost

Saturday, February 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ At least one member of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission thinks it's time the federal government bailed out the energy industry.

``We are in desperate straits in terms of supplying the energy needs of American consumers right now,'' said Denise Bode, vice chair of the commission. ``We are in tight supplies of natural gas in this country, and in terms of oil, we are heavily dependent on foreign imports.''

Bode is a member of President Bush's national energy advisory committee and is a longtime promoter of a comprehensive energy policy for the United States. She served six years as president of the Independent Petroleum Association of American, an advocate for the nation's independent oil and natural gas producers.

The Republican blames the Clinton administration for what she believes is a messed up industry. She said Clinton's cheap energy policies have put many domestic producers out of business in the last two years.

``We have failing infrastructure that we need to really, seriously examine in terms of pipelines, refineries and other things that help distribute oil and natural gas and process it,'' she said. ``We haven't paid attention to those things.''

Bode's solution would require cooperation from federal regulatory agencies and Congress, which is split almost evenly down party lines.

She said larger companies should be allowed access to areas in the United States that were restricted by the Clinton administration. The first priority, she said, should be building an Alaska natural gas pipeline.

``That should have been done 10 years ago,'' she said.

Bode said gas is being produced, then put back in the ground because there are so many restrictions on the industry.

The Sierra Club fought against an Alaskan pipeline, saying that drilling would ``decimate one of our nation's most important wilderness areas and threaten habitat used by hundreds of animals.''

But others say modern drilling technology protects the environment.

Another spot energy producers want to drill is the Rocky Mountains, which have been off limits for 15 years.

Bode said a big concern for smaller producers is the ability to raise enough money to drill. Potential investors are reluctant to invest in gas drilling because of the industry's bumpy history.

She wants a federal drilling incentive to kick in when prices fall. She said it would be similar to the incentive the Oklahoma Legislature passed in 1999.