* Domestic energy bonanza not understood, says Montana
* Energy independence, green power future within grasp
* "Stay tuned, cowboy," lawmaker says of plans for future
By Patrick Rucker
WASHINGTON, Dec 14 Montana Governor Brian
Schweitzer, who been an advocate of the recent oil and gas boom
that could upend U.S. energy policy, says he will keep spreading
his message when he leaves office.
Schweitzer, whose tenure as governor will end next month due
to state term limits, said the wave of drilling across his state
could be a model of how to eliminate the nation's dependence on
foreign fuel - if lawmakers would just get out of the way.
"Those SOBs out there," he said. "They got $60 mouths and $2
Montana, which is the fourth-largest U.S. state but has only
about 1 million residents, has not faced the public outcry
against drilling that has often stymied exploration east of the
Most of that opposition is misplaced, Schweitzer said. If
managed right, he added, the onshore oil and gas bonanza could
be used to fund a generation of cleaner energy.
"You got two minutes? I am going to tell you how we change
the world," Schweitzer told Reuters by phone on Thursday
afternoon as he outlined a plan to help subsidize electric cars
with a surcharge on foreign crude imports.
The key, Schweitzer said, is to make sure the public gets a
fair share of profits from energy found underground.
When the oil and gas industry threatened to abandon Montana
if it increased its royalty take to a sixth and even a fifth of
the value of the resources, Schweitzer said he had called their
"Guess what's happened in the last three years," he said.
"We've had the most spectacular year in oil leasing and drilling
in the history of the state."
Schweitzer then facetiously suggested the industry could
drill in New Jersey if it was looking for low royalty rates.
"You drill where there's oil, dummy."
Governments can encourage energy exploration without letting
the industry walk all over them, Schweitzer said, and in that
model, the two sides become true partners in success.
One example is the controversial Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL
pipeline envisioned to carry tar sands oil to distant
refineries, he said.
Schweitzer said he had withheld support until the energy
industry in his state got some benefits.
"I'll be for this, but you're going to have to build an
on-ramp and sign contracts with our oil producers so that we can
get a world price for a world quality oil," Schweitzer
remembered telling the pipeline operators as he tried to link
the vast Bakken oil and gas formation in the eastern edge of his
state with hungry markets.
The Bakken shale formation and its bounty of oil and gas is
a proving ground for hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," as the
new technology loosens more than 150 million barrels a year out
of the ground in Montana and neighboring North Dakota alone.
Government needs to erase regulation and help pipelines and
other infrastructure if the United States is to make the most of
that energy bonanza, Schweitzer said, and he will try to build
public support for his energy revolution when he leaves office.
"I'm going to go to people who actually have ears,"
Schweitzer said. "People around this country are going to demand
that Congress, once and for all, gets this right."
Schweitzer, who has been mentioned as a long-shot
possibility for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016,
said he would visit Washington "as little as possible" as he
pushes his energy campaign. The governor declined to say what
platform he will choose for that effort.
"Stay tuned, cowboy," he said.