* Officials should ease rules as oil, gas sectors boom,
* Controversial oil sand pipeline a good idea, CEOs say
* Help for clean energy, more efficiency also part of mix
By Patrick Rucker and Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON, Feb 25 Chief executives from some of
the largest U.S. companies offered an energy blueprint on Monday
that would expand drilling but they dodged thorny questions such
as whether the nation's oil and gas wealth should be exported.
The Business Roundtable, a policy forum for leading CEOs,
urged President Barack Obama to expand offshore oil production,
coal exports and drilling on public lands in the interest of a
fresh energy policy.
New technology has already put vast natural gas reserves
within reach - unlocking shale deposits and creating a sudden
glut of the fuel - but executives stayed silent on whether that
bounty should be exported.
Energy interests hope natural gas sales abroad will help
their bottom line while some domestic industries fear exports
will rob them of cheap fuel that could expand the nation's
The Roundtable, which brings together executives from
companies as varied as Coca-Cola Co and JPMorgan Chase &
Co, balked when asked for a concrete position on natural
"We haven't been overly specific with what we want to do
there," David Cote, chairman and CEO of Honeywell International
Inc told reporters in a call to discuss the plan.
Dow Chemical Co, a proponent for a go-slow policy on
natural gas exports and a member of the Roundtable, has warned
that shipping the fuel abroad would mean fewer domestic factory
Sudden natural gas exports "would allow U.S. firms to profit
from exports in the short term but at the long-term expense of
the rest of the economy," Dow CEO Andrew Liveris wrote in a
Monday editorial in the Wall Street Journal.
The United States stands to gain as many as 5 million new
jobs by the end of the decade as foreign companies build
domestic factories to tap cheap and abundant natural gas and
electricity, the Boston Consulting Group concluded last year.
The energy sector has asked the Obama administration to
bless plans to build natural gas export docks but officials have
not signaled their intentions.
Whatever happens to exports, though, the Roundtable
encouraged development of carbon fuels that are the backbone of
the nation's energy sector and it urged federal officials to
open more land to oil, gas and coal interests.
The organization also repeated its call to approve the
Keystone XL oil sands pipeline from Canada to Texas.
"Technology, coupled with access to vast resources, could
help strengthen America's position as an energy superpower,"
Chevron Corp CEO John Watson said in the call.
Crude output increased more in 2012 than any any other time
since the domestic oil industry got started in the mid 19th
century, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Much of that boom follows innovations such as hydraulic
fracturing, or fracking, which has opened large parts of the
country to drilling and ushered in a major shift away from coal
to cleaner natural gas in electric power generation.
There are still too many restrictions, the executives said,
and officials should expand drilling as one step to end "the
decades-long cycle of ad hoc energy policies."
The CEOs have been meeting with lawmakers recently to push
the connection between energy development and jobs. The report
also comes at a time when President Barack Obama is reshaping
his energy team and has vowed to take action on climate change.
The Roundtable called for "collective actions" to curb
heat-trapping greenhouse gases blamed for climate change rather
than price carbon emissions, as President Barack Obama had urged
in his State of the Union address earlier this month.
It warned that excessive regulation by the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) and other government bodies would drive
production and manufacturing overseas, where environmental
protection may be more lax.
Regulations to control fracking and other drilling has
typically come from the states rather the Washington, the
Roundtable said, and federal authorities should "respect" that
rule and avoid over-regulating that could put some fracking
While the CEOs said they favored offering tax incentives to
help commercialize non-fossil energy, such as renewables and
carbon capture and storage, they warned that those subsides must
be "finite" and "phased out in a predictable fashion."
Congress should adopt or extend tax incentives for other
renewable fuels and technologies but incentives should be
limited to those that are on "a credible path to unsubsidized
competitiveness" and can eventually be phased out.