MORSELS from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's Energy Summit on Monday at the Marriott: Keynote speaker Steve Hedrick, head of Bayer Crop-Science's Institute Industrial Park, said, "Right now the world is using oil at the rate of around 1,000 barrels every second. That should be of concern to all of us because the fossil fuels are not infinite.
"As major consumers of fossil fuels, we need to reduce our consumption, minimize the impact of that consumption, and help end users do the same. We need to work together to develop energy policies that satisfy our shortterm needs but that also allow us to further develop innovative solutions for our longterm goals."
Hedrick also said, "Over the past several decades, chemical plants, other industrial users and utilities have been whipsawed by recurrent cycles of natural gas shortages and surpluses. Between 1999 and 2005 alone, U.S. natural gas prices quadrupled due to large lags between demand increases and stepped-up production. The U.S. manufacturing industry shed more than 5.5 million jobs during those years.
"And as American manufacturing moved to other countries, so did the chemical production to meet product requirements. America's chemistry industry employment has declined more than 20 percent in the last two decades from one million people in 1990 to 780,000 today. These jobs support nearly four million supplier and other expenditure-induced jobs." However, according to a National Petroleum Council study, "North America's natural gas resources are enormous and, if recovered in acceptable ways, can positively transform our economy, energy security and environment.
"We can't just sit back and wait for the future to come to us," Hedrick said. "If we do, we'll lose big opportunities. The future will just pass us by. . . I hope you'll remember that the best way to predict the future is to act in ways that influence it.
"Working together, we can make it happen."
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Mark Muchow, deputy secretary of the state Department of Tax and Revenue, said that coal production in West Virginia is down 7 percent this year. Although production of natural gas in West Virginia increased by 87 percent from 2004 to 2011, coal is still the dominant economic force in the state's energy sector.
The mining industry accounted for 14 percent of the state's economy (gross domestic product) in 2011, up from 9.8 percent in 2010, Muchow said.
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Cal Kent, former vice president of business and economic research at Marshall University, went through a list of renewable or alternative energy sources and said none hold great promise in West Virginia.
For example, "biomass" usually means ethanol, which is made from corn. "We don't produce much corn so it's not going to happen" that West Virginia becomes a big producer unless there are some unwise energy policies, he said. Likewise, there's not much opportunity to produce biodiesel on a large scale because West Virginia doesn't grow a lot of soybeans.