March 11, 2014

Portman Discusses Opportunities in the Energy Sector on CNBC's Squawk Box

"We could be doing much better."

Washington, D.C. – This morning, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a member of the Senate Finance, Budget, Energy, and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees, appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box to unveil the Senate Republican Jobs for America plan. Portman also talked about opportunities in the energy sector, particularly in expanding production in oil and natural gas, as well as nuclear enrichment.

Excerpts are below and the video of Portman’s interview can be found here.

Becky Quick: Senator, we just had Boone Pickens on. He was talking about how he thinks that we need a better energy plan in America. Largely because of -- he was pointing out what's happening in Ukraine right now. He had been talking about, for a long time, how Russia controls the natural gas. As a result, Europe is really beholden to them on a lot of levels. I know you're on the energy committee. What do you think we could or should see in some of the national energy policy here?

Rob Portman: I think Boone Pickens is exactly right…Without the energy boom, without this revolution in being able to access the shale gas and oil, we'd be in a lot worse shape than we are. But we could be doing much better. As you know, we could do a lot more offshore on the outer continental shelf. We could do much more on public lands. We could do much more in terms of speeding up permitting…That's one of the things we want to do with this Senate Republican Jobs Plan, to speed up permitting to get more energy projects going. By the way, that includes oil and gas, but also renewables because they have the same problem with permitting. So I think he's right. There is a lot more we can do in terms of energy...The other thing about Ukraine that's interesting, since you raised it, [is that] about 50% of their electricity comes from the nuclear side. They get all their enriched uranium from Russia. One thing we do have in this country is the ability to enrich uranium and also to provide that to the Ukraine so they are not dependent on Russia. That's something I'm pushing.  So it's not just natural gas for Ukraine. It also has to do with ensuring that they have a source of fuel for their nuclear power.

BQ: 50% of their power comes from nuclear?

RP: Yes.

BQ: Wow. I didn't realize that.

RP: The Europeans have backed off on that, which is one reason the Europeans are more and more dependent, particularly the Germans, on the Russians. The United States can play a role here in helping to provide some of the energy that helps to defuse some of the crises like Ukraine, but also helps to keep the price of energy down and helps grow the global economy which helps us here in America. 

BQ: The markets have written off Crimea. They think it's an end game at this point, that that's gone. Do you think that's an accurate perception?

RP:  Gosh, I hope not. I think the international community needs to stand up and isolate Russia for what is a military invasion of a sovereign country. I don't think we ought to give up.