US execs united on oil drilling, divided on gas exports
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Chief executives from some of the largest US companies offered an energy blueprint on Monday that would expand drilling but they dodged thorny questions such as whether the nation’s oil and gas wealth should be exported.
The Business Roundtable, a policy forum for leading CEOs, urged President Barack Obama to expand offshore oil production, coal exports and drilling on public lands in the interest of a fresh energy policy.
New technology has already put vast natural gas reserves within reach – unlocking shale deposits and creating a sudden glut of the fuel – but executives stayed silent on whether that bounty should be exported.
Energy interests hope natural gas sales abroad will help their bottom line while some domestic industries fear exports will rob them of cheap fuel that could expand the nation’s manufacturing base.
The Roundtable, which brings together executives from companies as varied as Coca-Cola Co and JPMorgan Chase & Co, balked when asked for a concrete position on natural gas exports.
“We haven’t been overly specific with what we want to do there,” David Cote, chairman and CEO of Honeywell International Inc told reporters in a call to discuss the plan.
Dow Chemical Co, a proponent for a go-slow policy on natural gas exports and a member of the Roundtable, has warned that shipping the fuel abroad would mean fewer domestic factory jobs.
Sudden natural gas exports “would allow US firms to profit from exports in the short term but at the long-term expense of the rest of the economy,” Dow CEO Andrew Liveris wrote in a Monday editorial in the Wall Street Journal.
The United States stands to gain as many as 5 million new jobs by the end of the decade as foreign companies build domestic factories to tap cheap and abundant natural gas and electricity, the Boston Consulting Group concluded last year.
The energy sector has asked the Obama administration to bless plans to build natural gas export docks but officials have not signalled their intentions.