Feb. 25—GRAND FORKS — All three members of North Dakota's federal delegation were in Grand Forks on Friday to discuss the importance of domestic energy production and how strategic partnerships in the state can play a unique role in meeting that need.
Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer and Rep. Kelly Armstrong, all Republicans, spoke of opportunities and barriers to domestic oil and gas production, which they said are a crucial part of national — and by extension global — security. The delegation was virtually in lockstep in their remarks when it came to North Dakota's role in energy production, and how partnerships with industry leaders, researchers and policymakers can drive energy production forward.
"That's why the EERC is so cool, because they have one foot in the university world but then the other foot in research, development and commercializing these technologies, working with all of you to make it happen and making North Dakota an energy powerhouse," Hoeven said.
Hoeven did not limit his remarks to oil and gas and touched on opportunities involving carbon capture usage and storage — stuffing carbon dioxide in underground wells — where it can be stored or used for enhanced oil recovery projects in the state's western oil formation. That technology, Hoeven said, will also allow for the underground storage of carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants. Hoeven has long been a proponent of such technology, and is a driving force behind the state making use of its unique geology to store the byproduct gas.
Energy production was a topic on all the federal lawmakers' minds given the recent invasion of Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Hoeven said President Joe Biden is "behind the curve" on not further sanctioning Putin, including taking action on Russian oil and gas exports.
"If they can't get paid for that they don't have any revenue, and that's what we should be doing," Hoeven said.
Cramer also discussed the implications of the invasion of Ukraine, a situation he called a "sad, scary, tragic moment ... the likes of which we've not seen since World War II in Europe."
Now, Cramer said, is the time to utilize all energy options on the table including carbon capture underground storage, clean coal and nuclear power "because Europe is learning a really tough lesson in a really hard way."
Armstrong took a small-government approach in his remarks, and said innovation in energy and agriculture needs to come from strategic partnerships. However, he said, in order for the partnerships to flourish, the federal government needs to stay out of the way. He said the world can't be fed by "rooftop gardens in the Bronx, and it can't be powered by rainbows and unicorns."
"The federal government shouldn't mandate how we do it. We should allow our communities, our members of business, our workers and our citizens to determine that future," he said.
The lawmakers spoke before a group of dozens of state and local lawmakers, as well as leaders of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, who had held their annual meeting prior to the energy discussion.
Among them was Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, who harshly criticized President Biden and federal Democratic legislators about the situation in Ukraine. The invasion should be a wake-up call for better energy policy, which Sanford said is essential to U.S. and global security.
Sanford said the efforts of researchers at the EERC, including CEO Charles Gorecki, will be crucial if the state is going to reach Gov. Doug Burgum's goal of being carbon neutral by 2030. Sanford said that goal will not be attained by mandates and regulations, but by researchers' efforts to improve efficiency in the oil and gas sector.
Also praising the nature of partnerships was UND President Andrew Armacost, who noted the relationship between the energy industry in the state and the university. Revenue raised through production and extraction taxes paid to the state by energy companies ultimately benefits programs at UND, including geology and geological engineering. Graduates can then take positions in the energy industry.
"There's this great relationship — us helping the industry and the industry helping the state, which in turn allows us to offer this great education for our students," Armacost said.