* Shale oil, gas boom has forced rethink of energy
* White House finalizing new fracking rules
* Did not tip hand on decisions about exports, Keystone
By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON, Feb 27 As U.S. oil and natural gas
production booms, the Obama administration's energy policy has
been "fluid" by necessity to adapt to the huge economic
opportunities and climate challenges posed by growth, the top
White House energy and climate adviser said on Wednesday.
In a speech to a room packed with energy analysts and
lobbyists, Obama adviser Heather Zichal acknowledged that U.S.
energy policy "might not look perfectly pretty from the outside"
as it evolves to shifting supply-and-demand scenarios.
"It is a little bit fluid, but the landscape is changing,"
Zichal said at the Center for Strategic and International
Studies, a Washington think-tank.
The White House wants to ensure oil and gas production is
done as safety as possible, while investing in research and
development of renewable forms of energy and addressing climate
change, she said.
"I think that those goals will really help this
administration deliver on an energy policy that makes a lot of
sense," Zichal said.
"Energy is the common thread that links these three issues:
our economy, our security and our climate," she said.
Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," has blasted massive new
supplies of oil and natural gas from shale rock deep beneath the
earth. After decades of policies built around being dependent on
imports of foreign oil, lawmakers and the administration are
grappling with whether and how to allow more exports.
The United States could surpass Saudi Arabia as the world's
top oil producer by 2017, and within years could become a net
exporter of natural gas.
Zichal noted the administration is finalizing new rules for
disclosing chemicals used in fracking on public lands, and
tougher standards for fracking wells and wastewater.
"We're not glossing over the challenges of natural gas
development, but we're also not ignoring the opportunity natural
gas presents for jobs and for the climate," she said.
The White House recognizes the impact oil and natural gas
production has had on the economy, creating jobs and bringing
manufacturing operations from companies like Dow Chemical Co
and Ford Motor Co back from overseas, Zichal said.
She did not shed new light on how the administration will
rule on permitting exports to more countries, decisions expected
sometime this year. Zichal repeated that the White House is "not
opposed to the notion of exports" but wants to ensure they don't
"undermine" American consumers.
Zichal said she is spending "a lot of time talking to the
rail industry" about infrastructure needs to move a glut of oil
from the U.S. Midwest to refineries on the coast, another
outcome of the sudden bounty of oil supplies.
But she shied away from discussing White House thinking on
the Keystone XL pipeline, a project designed to ship oil from
Canada and North Dakota to Gulf refineries.
Zichal said the decision-making process is in the hands of
the State Department. The project has been stalled for years
pending a decision by the administration.