Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo believes it’s essential that other countries know they have a friend in the U.S. when it comes to energy.
The former Trump administration official spoke Thursday at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference, which drew 2,600 people to Bismarck this week.
Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm also addressed the crowd via a prerecorded message, touting the Biden administration’s green infrastructure plans.
Pompeo was critical of the Biden administration’s focus on climate change, saying the Russians and Saudis are “thrilled” by the president’s shift away from fossil fuels, particularly his halting of oil leasing on federal lands.
“They say our administration was soft on Russia,” Pompeo said. “To deny America the capacity to build out its own energy resources is the biggest gift one could give to (Russian President) Vladimir Putin.”
Pompeo served as secretary of state under President Donald Trump from 2018 until January of this year, and he previously oversaw the CIA. Earlier in his career, he worked for an oil equipment manufacturer.
Pompeo told conference attendees about a trip he took as secretary of state last year to Belarus in Eastern Europe.
The country received nearly all its energy supply from Russia and was in a price war with the nation. Pompeo recalled speaking at a press conference there, where he said, “America stands ready to deliver its crude oil and petroleum products into Belarus at any time.”
He hoped his comment would persuade Putin to drop prices and also help America gain market share overseas. Shortly thereafter, United Energy Trading stepped up. The company is a subsidiary of United Energy Corp., which is headquartered in Bismarck.
“A North Dakota company delivered the first American shipment of petroleum products into Belarus, reducing our geopolitical risk and making the opportunity for the Belarusian people to live in a country that was more like the democracy that we know and love here,” Pompeo said. “You all did that. You delivered that.”
Pompeo did not directly answer a question from a reporter about whether he plans to run for president in 2024. Numerous news reports in recent weeks speculate that he’s contemplating a run.
Pompeo said he’s spoken at a number of events recently and is focused on trying to help Republicans regain control of Congress in the 2022 midterm elections.
“We need to stop what the Biden administration is doing as quickly as we can,” he said. “The quickest way we can do that is to win back control of the House and the Senate in November of 2022. What comes after that, Lord only knows.”
North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness quipped about Pompeo’s potential political future as he took the stage to thank the former secretary of state for his speech.
“On behalf of everyone here and North Dakotans, we want to make sure that we are the first to invite you back here as the 47th president of the United States of America,” he said.
Granholm’s remarks focused largely on Biden’s efforts to transition to cleaner energy.
“If America is going to compete in the 21st century, we have to stake our claim in that market,” she said. “I understand and totally get that many in this industry are nervous about that.”
She acknowledged the transition will not be easy for people working in the oil industry, saying the Biden administration “will do everything in our power to bring every worker along.”
Granholm spoke of several opportunities for jobs in North Dakota: detecting leaks of methane from oil and gas infrastructure, developing geothermal energy and deploying technology to capture carbon emissions and store them underground.
“Today’s petroleum engineers could be suited to become tomorrow’s subsurface carbon managers,” she said.
North Dakota officials are hoping Granholm will visit the state. Gov. Doug Burgum spoke with her via phone Wednesday and indicated that their offices will work to coordinate a trip.
The U.S. Department of Energy is heavily involved in funding carbon capture research, including projects in North Dakota. Supporters of the technology see it as a way to address climate change. Efforts in North Dakota to capture carbon emissions have focused on coal and ethanol plants.
Burgum earlier this week challenged conference attendees to help the state become carbon neutral by the end of the decade. One of the key ways the governor hopes to achieve the goal is through carbon capture, including piping emissions captured from industrial facilities in other states into North Dakota, where they would be injected deep under the surface of the prairie.
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