Devon CEO pushes drilling offshore Virginia

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By Rex Springston, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA — Virginia and the federal government need to get behind offshore drilling to bring money and jobs to the state, an energy company executive says.

“We have the [energy] resources,” said the executive, J. Larry Nichols. “We just don’t yet have the will to go develop them.”

Nichols is chairman and CEO of Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy Corp., one of the country’s largest independent oil and natural-gas exploration and production companies.

He spoke last night at the Omni Richmond Hotel in a program presented by the World Affairs Council of Greater Richmond.

Nichols said oil and gas will remain key energy sources for a long time.

“I’m 100 percent in favor of alternative energy, but wind and solar and whatever else is out there are not very significant now and are not going to be very significant for decades to come,” he said.

The federal government is considering leasing land off the Virginia coast as early as 2011 for oil and gas exploration.

Nichols chided Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, who recently sought to slow that process by asking President Barack Obama’s administration for more time to study the state’s offshore gas reserves.

Steve Walz, Kaine’s chief energy adviser and a member of the audience, said after the speech that Kaine was simply passing along the policy adopted by the General Assembly — that exploration should target gas only.

Concerns over potential spills have limited state support for oil drilling.

Glen Besa, director of the Sierra Club’s Virginia chapter, said the U.S. needs to move beyond fossil fuels to sources such as biodiesel and wind.

Fossil fuels contribute to global warming, and the U.S. will never produce enough fossil fuels to meet its demand, Besa said.

“We need to get serious about climate change and energy security,” Besa said in a telephone interview. He was not part of yesterday’s program.

Offshore drilling has become an issue in the governor’s race.

Among the Democrats seeking the nomination in a June 9 primary: Former Del. Brian Moran of Alexandria opposes drilling for oil and gas. Terry McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, opposes drilling for oil but is open to limited exploration for natural gas 50 miles off of the coast. State Sen. R. Creigh Deeds of Bath County favors drilling for oil and gas but with some caveats, including the way royalties would be distributed.

Former Attorney General Bob McDonnell, the lone GOP candidate, strongly supports drilling for oil and natural gas.

www.timesdispatch.com

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