In a speech that is nearly as remarkable for being made public on an energy company's web site as for being given by the CEO of that company, Questar Corporation's
CEO Keith Rattie gave a remarkable speech at Utah Valley University in April on "Energy myths and realities
You can read the PDF at the link above, or just read the text below. If the above link doesn't work, I've saved the speech for posterity HERE
Energy Myths and Realities
Keith O. Rattie
Chairman, President and CEO
Utah Valley University
April 2, 2009
Good morning, everyone. I'm honored to join you today.
I see a lot of faculty in the audience, but I'm going to address my remarks today primarily to you students of this fine school. Thirty-three years ago I was where you are today, about to graduate (with a degree in electrical engineering), trying to decide what to do with my career. I chose to go to work for an energy company – Chevron – on what turned out to be a false premise: I believed that by the time I reached the age I am today that America and the world would no longer be running on fossil fuels. Chevron was pouring money into alternatives – and they had lots of money and the incentive to find alternatives – and I wanted to be part of the transition.
Fast forward 33 years. Today, you students are being told that before you reach my age America and the world must stop using fossil fuels.
I'm going to try to do something that seems impossible these days – and that's have an honest conversation about energy policy, global warming and what proposed "cap and trade&" regulation means for you, the generation that will have to live with the consequences of the policy choices we make. My goal is to inform you with easily verifiable facts – not hype and propaganda – and to appeal to your common sense. But first a few words about Questar.
Questar Corp. is the largest public company headquartered in Utah, one of only two Utah-based companies in the S&P 500. Most of you know Questar Corp. as the parent of Questar Gas, the utility that sends you your natural gas bill every month. But outside of Utah and to investors we're known as one of America's fastest-growing natural gas producers. We also own a natural gas pipeline company. We have terrific people running each of our five major business units, and I'm proud of what they've done to transform this 85-year old company. We're the only Utah-based company ever to make the Business Week magazine annual ranking of the 50 top-performing companies in the S&P 500 – we were #5 in both 2007 and 2008, and we're #18 in the top 50 in Business Week’s 2009 ranking, just out this week.
At Questar our mission is simple: we find, produce and deliver clean energy that makes modern life possible. We focus on natural gas, and that puts us in the “sweet spot” of America's energy future and the global-warming debate. Natural gas currently provides about one-fourth of America's energy needs. But when you do the math, the inescapable conclusion is that greater use of natural gas will be a consequence of any policy aimed at cutting human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). You cut CO2 emissions by up to 50% when you use natural gas instead of coal to generate electricity. You cut CO2 emissions by 30% and NOx emissions by 90% when you use natural gas instead of gasoline in a car or truck – and here in Utah you save a lot of money. You can run a car on compressed natural gas at a cost of about 80 cents per gallon equivalent. You also cut CO2 emissions by 30-50% when you use natural gas instead of fuel oil or electricity to heat your home.
But you didn't come here for a commercial about Questar and I didn't come here to give you one. Let's talk about energy.
There may be no greater challenge facing mankind today – and your generation in particular – than figuring out how we're going to meet the energy needs of a planet that may have 9 billion people living on it by the middle of this century. The magnitude of that challenge becomes even more daunting when you consider that of the 6.5 billion people on the planet today, nearly two billion people don't even have electricity – never flipped a light switch.
Now, the “consensus” back in the mid-1970s was that America and the world were running out of oil. Ironically, some in the media were also claiming a scientific consensus that the planet was cooling, fossil fuels could be to blame, and we were all going to freeze to death unless we kicked our fossil-fuel habit. We were told we needed to find alternatives to oil – fast. That task, we were told, was too important to leave to markets, so government needed to intervene with massive taxpayer subsidies for otherwise uneconomic forms of energy. That thinking led to the now infamous 1977 National Energy Plan, an experiment with central planning that failed miserably. Fast-forward to today, and: déjà vu. This time the fear is not so much that we're running out of oil, but that we're running out of time – the earth is getting hotter, humans are to blame, and we're all doomed if we don't stop using fossil fuels – fast. Once again we're being told that the job is too important to be left to markets.
Well, the doomsters of the 1970s turned out to be remarkably wrong. My bet is that today's doomsters will be proven wrong. Over the past 39 years mankind has consumed nearly twice the world's known oil reserves in 1970 – and today proven oil reserves are nearly double what they were before we started. The story with natural gas is even better – here and around the world enormous amounts of natural gas have been found. More will be found. And guess what? The 30-year cooling trend that led to the global cooling scare in the mid-70s abruptly ended in the late 70s, replaced by a 20-year warming trend that peaked in 1998.
The lesson that we should've learned from the 1970s is that when it comes to deciding how much energy gets used, what types of energy get used, and where, how and by whom energy gets used – that job is too important not to be left to markets.
Now, I'd love to stand here and debate the science of global warming. The media of course long ago declared that debate over – global warming is a planetary emergency, we've got to change the way we live now. I've followed this debate closely for over 15 years. I read everything I get my hands on. I'm an engineer, so I tend to be skeptical when journalists hyperventilate about science – “World coming to an end – details at 11”. My research convinces me that claims of a scientific consensus about global warming mislead the public and policy makers – and may reflect another agenda.
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