U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., concluded their tour of West Virginia energy production sites on June 16.
The tour introduced Murkowski, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee's leading Republican member, and Wyden, the committee's incoming leading Democratic member, to West Virginia's diverse energy production infrastructure, which Manchin said is an exemplary model of what the United States might implement as it continues to move toward energy independence.
Manchin said the tour was a tremendous opportunity for West Virginia, as well as him as a senator, because it enabled him to bring the committee's two ranking members to his state.
"They are both good people and good friends, and we are going to work together in the future to bring our country closer to energy independence," Manchin said.
"By coming to West Virginia they were able to see an 'all in' model of energy production. They were able to see wind, coal and natural gas contributing to our overall state energy production."
This kind of "all-of-the-above" approach needs to replace the more traditional "one-size-fits-all" approach, according to Manchin, who said the United States needs to use all of its resources as best it can.
Manchin also recommended each sate do its own energy audit. "Every state needs to know how what forms of energy it consumes, how much energy it consumes and how much energy it produces. Every state should look at its consumption so it knows exactly where it stands."
If states took this kind of individual initiative, Manchin said, we would be well on our way to energy independence.
As another example of a specific action that would bring the United States closer to energy independence, Manchin mentioned the increasingly popular idea of converting government vehicles to natural gas.
"Governor Tomblin just announced the formation of a task force that will be looking at this," Manchin said. "Experts say it could be accomplished in five years by establishing bulk fill stations county by county. If we did this, all of our state vehicles would go to their county's bulk station to refuel. It would not cost a lot to convert our vehicles, and, if we did that state by state, we could see a 20 to 25 percent decrease in fuel costs."
Manchin also said it is imperative for the Environmental Protection Agency to work closely with policy makers to ensure the best possible balance between economical efficiency and environmental protection.
"Right now, the EPA is requiring unreasonable time guidelines," Manchin said. "I say, if it is unobtainable, it is unachievable."
Nonetheless, Manchin said he sees a positive future for energy production in the United States and in West Virginia.
He said, "I am so unbelievably proud that we had such experienced and powerful senators visit our state. They are committed to very close with me, and we are going to make West Virginia a model for creating a balance between our economy and environment."