Congressman Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, and Vincent DeVito, counselor to the Secretary for Energy Policy, both stopped in Garden City, along with representatives from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, on Thursday for a discussion with constituents on U.S. energy policy.
DeVito serves as the counselor to the secretary, which is a “newly created” position within the Department of the Interior that is charged with ensuring energy policy coordination among nine bureaus within the department. He also advises the secretary, deputy secretary, chief of staff and assistant secretaries on all aspects of energy policy.
“We do have perks in the Department of the Interior, believe it or not. We’re one of the only agencies that do,” DeVito said of his place of employment, adding that the Department of the Interior oversees the nation's natural resources, American Indian affairs, the Bureau of Land Management and more.
Devito said since being in his position, he’s been able to see the Department of the Interior grow, and he had high praise for President Donald Trump and his administration.
“From the beginning, it has always had an ‘America First’ policy,” DeVito said, adding that Trump has had the same mentality for all of his passed policies during his presidency. “… The most remarkable thing about this president and his leadership team is that it’s not a political-based mindset. It is an America-first base mindset. What I mean by that is this president has kept all of his campaign promises so far. But it’s not because he is a typical politician with an itemized list of promises that he wants to check off the box on. That’s who he is intuitively. Folks need to understand that about him…”
During the stop, DeVito talked about the importance of managing the nation's energy portfolio, something for which he was hired to do. He said the Department of Interior is the second largest generator of revenue in the federal government behind the Internal Revenue Service.
“What we noticed when we first got in there was that from about 2006 to 2016, there was a gigantic dip in revenue from the Department of Interior,” he said. “The point that I like to mention, because it’s astonishing to me, is that in 2006, we the United States had about $18 billion in revenue from offshore (energy) alone. In 2016, the year before President Trump and Secretary (of Interior) Ryan Zinke took office, it was down to $2.8 billion. That’s a gigantic delta.”
Since the change in administration, DeVito noted, revenues have increased by nearly $1 billion a year.
DeVito also said that when the U.S. produces more energy, it displaces energy that would be produced in parts of the world, which is a benefit to the U.S.
“Not only are we getting an economic benefit, but we are getting an environment benefit," DeVito said. "Nobody is better at implementing best practices, best sciences, best environmental protocols anywhere in the world than the United States.”
An increase in revenue within the department helps fund conservation efforts, DeVito added.
“A lot of the state parks efforts, a lot of the conservationists efforts are funded from royalty rates, and I don’t think a lot of folks know that…” DeVito said. “It works really well.”
For some reason, Devito said, the U.S. hasn't always embraced its energy economy. He listed off Canada, Mexico, Russia, Saudia Arabia and Brazil as countries that have done just the opposite.
“They embrace their energy economy, but for some reason, we did not,” DeVito said. ”Obviously in this administration, that has changed and that changed when Mr. Trump started to talk about it during the campaign. He knows his stuff as well as anybody. It is remarkable to work with him, or be in the meetings because the questions he has and the state of his thinking is sophisticated.”
Marshall, who serves the 1st District in Kansas, said that Mexico’s needs for oil and gas are going up, which could mean more export opportunities for the U.S. with the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“What really intrigued me is right now Mexico is importing gas on their west coast, so it’s coming from over seas…” Marshall said. “We would have bigger opportunities to export natural gas off that west coast, as well.”
Doing that will take significant infrastructure, he added.
“Why NAFTA is important is, if an American company wants to invest in those pipelines, we want protection. There is something called ISDS, Investor State Dispute Settlement, that if you invested in a project like that, it would give you those extra protections,” Marshall said. “The ISDS is very important to protect our investments. I think there is lots of opportunities with NAFTA. It’s been a roller coaster ride with trades and tariffs right now… With my private conversations with President Trump, his goals, his visions are the same as ours. He wants a stronger NAFTA. He wants to hold China accountable.”