Ex-energy secretary: Costly diesel a long-term problem

Don’t expect any major relief in diesel prices in the near future, a former U.S. energy secretary said Oct. 17.

Former U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham told the American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference and Exhibition in Boston that energy supply is a long-term problem facing this country.

Abraham noted the U.S. Department of Energy’s latest Short-Term Energy Outlook, released Oct. 12, forecasts an average price of $2.58 a gallon for diesel fuel in 2006.

“On the supply side, we have a lot of self-imposed problems,” Abraham said. These issues include stringent environmental laws and a lack of refineries and nuclear-power plants to meet soaring demands, Abraham said. The newest nuclear plant in the United States was built more than 20 years ago, he noted.

Energy demands around the world are increasing at an unprecedented rate, thanks in part to the surging industrial economies of China and India, Abraham said. Worldwide energy consumption is expected to increase 60 percent by 2030, and DOE forecasts worldwide oil consumption to grow from 80 million barrels per day in 2003 to 120 million barrels per day by 2025.

“When you ask any of these experts about solutions, none of them have clear-cut answers,” Abraham said.

Abraham was a U.S. senator from Michigan for one term, during which he called for the elimination of the federal Department of Energy. He ran unsuccessfully for re-election in 2000, after which President-elect Bush named him energy secretary. He resigned that post at the beginning of Bush’s second term. He now is a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution and co-chair of the Committee for Justice, which supports conservative nominees to the federal bench.

Abraham said energy concerns need to be addressed by:

  • Building more nuclear power plants.
  • Building more oil refineries.
  • Importing more natural gas.
  • More energy legislation.
  • Reconsidering moratoriums on known domestic oil-rich areas.
  • More fuel cell technology.
  • More biofuel technology.

“We are headed in a direction where we no longer need catastrophic events like Hurricane Katrina to bring the challenges to the forefront,” Abraham said.

In the U.S. Senate, Abraham championed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where drilling is currently off limits. In the 1990s, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated the equivalent of 10 billion barrels of recoverable oil lies beneath the refuge. At current U.S. oil consumption of 20 million barrels a day, that would be a 500-day supply.