By Jay Vincent,
Senior Vice President for Energy, The Saint Consulting Group
Caution to Listeners: You May Need to Adjust Your Volume
You might have thought that the lively energy debate behind such campaign slogans as “Drill Baby Drill!” would have triggered more emotional turnout to the Interior Department’s first extended public comment hearing on use of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), hosted by Secretary Ken Salazar in Atlantic City. You would be wrong.
Although the usual suspects – renewable developers (particularly wind) and oil and gas drilling interests – and their natural allies and advocates showed up to say a couple words about “mining” energy resources off the OCS, there were many crisp empty seats in the Atlantic City Convention Center yesterday and relative calm during the presentations. See The Cape Cod Times report by Wayne Parry.
By my unscientific observation, there were as many speakers from both renewable, anti-drilling activists and organizations pushing the pitfalls of “fossil-foolishness” as there were those pushing the Minerals Management Service at Interior to utilize the OCS for drilling in the interest of energy independence. I thought the best orchestrated turnout both in crowd-building and speakers was the Surfrider Foundation that had well-scripted speakers, turned in 21,000 petitions (also on Facebook) and made their case personal in terms of their members literally being in the waters of the Atlantic everyday and therefore impacted by any perceived pollutants from OCS drilling. I believe they were the also the ones behind hoisting dollar bills in the air every time a petroleum interest got up to speak.
The American Petroleum Institute, American Gas Association and a consumers energy group were represented as well. I was a bit surprised that neither side of the debate (both with lots of political and PR savvy) had driven higher turnout of their regional supporters to the event to provide larger political support to bolster their arguments for energy production on the OCS. Although the Obama Administration and federal agencies have certainly been outspoken supporters of renewables as a more sustainable generator of energy, voters still matter. I’ll be interested to see which side, drilling or wind, utilizes the next three meetings (in New Orleans, Anchorage and San Francisco) to demonstrate that they have the American “vote” in their corner.
Jay Vincent is senior vice president for energy, The Saint Consulting Group, email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 312.970.5770 Ext: 7502