Washington DC – The Subcommittee on Energy and Environment today held a hearing to examine research needs and priorities related to the development of America’s unconventional oil and gas resources. Witnesses discussed H.R. 6603, the “Tapping America’s Energy Potential through Research and Development Act of 2012,” sponsored by Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX).

Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (R-MD) highlighted the Subcommittee’s work in the 112th Congress relating to unconventional oil and gas resources, noting the Committee has “explored a broad range of energy production-related issues, from the lack of transparency and weak scientific foundations underlying EPA’s job-killing regulations to the waste and imbalance in Department of Energy’s research and development activities.”

Describing his legislation, Chairman Hall said, “Energy policy is and has always been one of my top priorities, both as a Member, and as Chairman of this Committee. That is why I introduced H.R. 6603, which would increase energy security through support for research and development to enable prudent development of U.S. domestic energy resources. This legislation builds on the record of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee during my tenure as Chairman, as well as existing unconventional oil and gas R&D activities that I helped author as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.”

Discussing the benefits of unconventional oil and gas technology development Dr. Dan Hill, the Chair of the Petroleum Engineering Department at Texas A&M said, In just a few years, applications of advanced technology have led to the most dramatic economic boost our country has seen in my lifetime. Without question, there is a revolutionary change in U.S. energy supply underway, solely due to oil and gas production from unconventional reservoirs.”

Mr. David Martineau, Chairman of the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners (TIPRO) echoed successes of previous federal research. “In the past, federal dollars have been spent on researching and developing improved methods of oil and natural gas extraction. Much of the resultant data and techniques, combined with the forward thinking of some brilliant and creative private sector minds, resulted in some of the biggest energy successes in the country’s history,” Mr. Martineau said.

The Subcommittee also discussed the enormous energy potential associated with the development of U.S. oil shale resources.  Representing the Idaho National Lab, Mr. Mike Hagood explained how “a viable oil shale industry would help meet U.S. energy demands and reduce dependence on selected imports and associated costs, as well as reduce the risks associated with potential supply disruption.” Further, Dr. Hagood said, “A federal research and development program aimed to advance oil shale production would provide a ‘high return on investment.’”

Intended to revitalize oil shale activities originally authorized by Congress in the early 1990s, the oil shale research called for in H.R. 6603 would be awarded on a competitive basis to universities, national laboratories, private sector entities or consortia thereof. 

It is estimated that American oil shale resources could yield an estimated 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil—more than three times greater than all the proven oil reserves in Saudi Arabia.  Chairman Harris noted that, despite testimony from the Department of Energy stating that oil shale is part of the President’s so-called “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, the Obama Administration is requesting no funding for oil shale R&D and recently finalized a plan effectively reducing lands available for oil shale production by two thirds.

The following witnesses testified today:

Dr. Anthony Cugini, Director, National Energy Technology Laboratory, Department of Energy

Mr. David Martineau, Chairman, Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association

Dr. Daniel Hill, Interim Department Head, Professor and holder of the Noble Chair in Petroleum Engineering, Texas A&M University

Mr. Michael Hagood, Director of Program Development, Energy and Environment Science and Technology, Idaho National Laboratory