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Cramer leads congressmen on ND energy tour

MINOT -- North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer said Friday that leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee needed to see what is going on in North Dakota's oil fields.

"With a lot of action coming up on the floor, we can try and do for the U.S. what we have done here in North Dakota," he said.

That's why Cramer led six Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives on a one-day fact-finding mission Friday from Minot to Tioga, checking out an oil rig, fracking site, the Hess Energy company facility in Tioga and Enbridge Pipeline company station in Berthold.

Cramer said during a news conference here that there weren't any huge surprises to the congressional members, but confirmation that Congress needs to continue to keep an eye on North Dakota and its energy production as the state's growth outpaces the nation in energy development and economic activity.

During the quick trip, Cramer said most of the discussion among the members revolved around economic issues that come with energy development.

"You can read about it in the Wall Street Journal, but there is something about going out there and seeing the help wanted signs," he said.

The trip was self-financed by each member. Due to the federal sequestration, Cramer said the energy committee's spending was cut, so discretionary spending has been limited.

The congressmen spoke to the country's ability, using some of North Dakota's energy production standards, to become energy independent. But he said there needs to be less federal regulation. He also said the country needs to build the Keystone XL pipeline that is proposed to transport crude oil to from Canada and northern U.S. states to refineries in the South.

Nebraska Congressman Lee Terry said he was astonished at the amount of flared natural gas around the Oil Patch.

"To see it flared off reinforces the idea Congress needs to act," he said.

Michigan Congressman Fred Upton, chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, said the flared gas only shows the large amount of natural gas, adding that there are many additional uses for natural gas, such as railroads using it to power locomotives.

The energy tour brought up questions about the recent railcar derailment in Canada carrying Bakken crude oil that exploded.

Cramer said it points to the need to build the Keystone XL, as 75 percent of Bakken oil is moved by rail and pipeline is the safest, most efficient way to move crude oil for refinement.

"You don't think of hitting a demand wall, but in many respects we have," Cramer said. "We have created a bottleneck in getting this stuff to market."

Upton reinforced Cramer's argument favoring the pipeline. With 1.5 million barrels of oil a day coming into the U.S. from Canada and Canada's intent to send 6 million barrels, "we're not ready for that" without the pipeline, Upton said.

"We have to get it to the refineries," he said. "I hope the administration makes the decision to go ahead with it."

Colorado Congressman Cory Gardner said the oil boom experienced in North Dakota is beginning to take shape in his state, and he has seen many businesses now operating out of both states.

"North Dakota is powering America, and that is exciting," Gardner said.

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.