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Candidates Stumping in La. Tackle Energy Policy

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In Mississippi, they ate grits. In Louisiana, Republican presidential hopefuls have been trying to impress local voters by talking about oil and gas ahead of Saturday's primary.

Don Briggs, President of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, told WRKF's Amy Jeffries, especially with gas prices on the rise, the candidates would have been remiss if they didn't tackle energy policy on the stump.

BRIGGS: And each one of them, you know, in their own way, have different ideas about energy policy. The speaker, Newt, he's against the frivolous lawsuits for instance. Lawsuit abuse is a big thing to our industry.

JEFFRIES: Gingrich has talked about trying to discourage frivolous lawsuits by putting it on whoever is the loser in the lawsuit to pay all of the legal costs, which puts an extra burden certainly on the plaintiffs.

He's also been promising to get gas prices below $2.50 a gallon with more domestic production. Do you think that's possible?

BRIGGS: This is a global market when you talk about oil. And global means that we don't set that price. The guy that sets the price is the guy that's got the most oil, and that is OPEC. And they're happy with $90-oil-plus. And believe me, if oil got down to $70, you'd see OPEC close that valve real quick, and take oil out of the marketplace, and drive the prices back up. If we were producing much more oil, then our prices that we're paying for oil could decline.

See, natural gas prices in Asia are right around $9, $10, $11 an MSF. Here it's $2.30, because we're our own little private market here now, because we have our own natural gas and so much of it. So more production would be very helpful.

JEFFRIES: Now, Mitt Romney has talked about streamlining regulation - that's been his biggest line - streamlining regulation and fast-tracking the approval process to get new development going.

BRIGGS: Right. Well, you know, that's just the Keystone pipeline, for instance. That project has been trying to get permitted for a few years now, and then it gets bogged down because, you know, the president doesn't want to do it - well, he does want to do it, he's going to do it - not that he's doesn't want to do it, he's going to do it. But when you get in the Gulf of Mexico and you start dealing with these permits, it's easy for them to tie us up with all the bureacracy. So fast-tracking permitting system - so long as it's safe and environmentally sound - that's a good thing.

JEFFRIES: Santorum has been talking over and over - his emphasis has been on lifting the moratoriums. Is there a particular point of emphasis that you think is the right one?

BRIGGS: No, I think it's a combination. You know, I think lifting the bans that we have are very important.

One of the things that I have to say about Santorum is, he's a believer of taking away what he calls, as well as the president calls, "subsidies" to the oil and gas industry. Now that gives me heartburn. There's a big difference between a "subsidy" and a "tax credit". For instance, when we take the risk, we drill a well, we have a discovery, we then can deduct these expenses that we've incurred from our income. That is not a subsidy.

JEFFRIES: Over the last three years under the Obama administration, have things gotten better or worse in terms of the ease of doing business?

BRIGGS: Oh, they've gotten much more difficult.
When he came on board, we could drill on the East Coast and the West Coast, and we were getting to drill off of Florida.
He did shutdown the East Coast, the West Coast, and also Alaska.

JEFFRIES: Now, how much of that came as a reaction to the Deepwater Horizon Spill?

BRIGGS: Oh, just the Florida was the Deepwater Horizon. I mean, the president - and it's no secret - the president is not in love with fossil fuels, and he does not like the oil and gas industry.

JEFFRIES: It sounds to me like you are quite convinced that having one of these Republican candidates in the oval office would be a good thing for Louisiana, and probably the nation, in that regard.

BRIGGS: Absolutely. It certainly would be.