A lobbyist and former Texas congressman, voted out in 2004 after 26 years in office, was in Durango to speak Thursday
on behalf of the gas and oil industry, which he said won't be replaced by alternative fuels any time soon.
Charlie Stenholm, a conservative Democrat with a background in agriculture, was in the area as a representative of the
American Petroleum Institute to argue for the importance of domestically produced fossil fuels in meeting the country's
growing demand for energy.
We're going to need to produce all the energy we can," he said during a meeting with The Durango Herald's editorial
He praised President Barack Obama's plan announced this week to expand some offshore drilling.
The president took a very good step forward," he said.
Despite his defense of the industry, Stenholm acknowledged that alternative fuels are needed to curtail global
We never said drilling is the answer," he said.
He said new technologies such as directional drilling - a technique used extensively here in the San Juan Basin in the
production of coal-bed methane - have unlocked vast new reserves that can help secure the country's energy future for
years to come.
He applauded the vote by U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, against a climate-change bill last year that would have
created a regime of cap and trade for carbon.
Cap and trade was a terrible bill," he said.
He argued for allowing the market to advance technologies such as carbon sequestration, which locks the gas deep
underground, before imposing new regulations.
Josh Joswick, a staff organizer on gas and oil issues for the San Juan Citizens Alliance, said leaving it up to the
free market is a cop-out.
As long as we continue to look to fossil fuels as our answer, we're not going to get serious about renewables, we're
not going to get serious about conservation, we're not going to get serious about efficiency," he said.
Joswick, who was not at the editorial board meeting but responded to some of Stenholm's statements in a phone interview
afterward, called the free-market argument duplicitous.
With all the subsidizing that they've had over the years don't give me this, 'The free market will take care of
it,'" he said.
Stenholm said environmental concerns about water contamination from hydraulic fracturing - a process that uses
high-pressure water, chemicals and sand to fracture rock formations, releasing natural gas - are unfounded.
We have never had a major problem with our water supplies in Texas or anywhere," he said.
Joswick challenged the industry to prove its claim of safety by making public the proprietary blend of chemicals
contained in fracing fluids.
That's just a red herring," he said.
Stenholm also lobbies on behalf of the horse meat industry, which was hobbled in 2005 by new federal legislation.
Stenholm, citing high demand for the meat in Europe and Asia, said the prohibition has led to more, not less, inhumane
treatment of unwanted horses.
He noted that American sensibilities on the subject are somewhat arbitrary.
If you eat meat, something has to die," he said.
Anna Yu, an assistant to Stenholm, said he planned to speak to the Durango High Noon Rotary and meet with La Plata
County Commissioner Joelle Riddle before leaving town.