U.S. Senator David Vitter told a group of engineering students Monday that domestic energy production is “under assault” from the Obama administration and left-wing environmentalists.
Their future job prospects, Vitter said, may depend on how policy debates take shape in Washington, D.C.
Speaking during the Dean’s Lecture Series at the LSU College of Engineering, Vitter said the U.S. economy has been thrown a lifeline with the cheap price of natural gas sparking a manufacturing boom across multiple industries.
Jobs in the chemical, paper and forestry industries used to go overseas before newer technology made domestic drilling more efficient, he said.
“It’s an accident of history or an accident of geology that most of the natural gas we have is on private land so the federal government doesn’t have as much control, like with oil,” the Republican senator said. “That makes a big difference.”
But President Barack Obama and the “environmental left” want the federal government to have more control over the natural gas industry, Vitter said, especially in the case of the drilling method known as fracking, or hydraulic fracturing. Fracking injects water into rock to release oil and natural gas.
The environmental community wants to cast fracking as potentially dangerous to groundwater supplies, but their arguments are not based on “sound science” he said.
Drilling opponents have never proven that fracking has directly led to any underground contamination, the senator said.
“Fracking debates are going to have a lot to say if we continue down a productive path or if we turn that spigot off,” Vitter said.
The United States should be focusing on expanding natural gas uses into the transportation industry, rather than trying to limit it, he added.
Those in favor of heavy government regulation in the oil and gas industries have “no realistic plan” to phase out existing energy sources in the next few decades, Vitter said.
During a speech that went just over 30 minutes, the Metairie native also touched on his work to pass the federal RESTORE Act.
The legislation currently making its way through the U.S. Congress guarantees 80 percent of the fines collected from the April 2010 BP oil disaster, an amount that could reach $20 billion, would be distributed for coastal restoration to Gulf states.
“Louisiana would get the plurality, because clearly we suffered the most impact,” Vitter said.
The senator also touched on climate change, calling himself “a big cynic.
“I don’t believe human industrial activity has been a major factor,” he said.