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Western States Look To Capitalize On Energy Boom

By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) â¿¿ Petroleum producers in southeastern New Mexico are on track to pump out 80 million barrels of oil this year â¿¿ numbers that haven't been seen since the 1970s.

In Texas and North Dakota, the oilfields are booming. Companies are exploring possible shale plays in more pockets around the West, and there are no signs that Wyoming stands to lose its position as the nation's top coal producer.

Federal projections released this week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration suggest the next three decades will see similar flurries of domestic energy development as technology improves and pressures mount to reduce America's reliance on Mideast oil, and the West will be a player.

The "energy breadbasket" of the nation is how Utah Gov. Gary Herbert describes it.

With its large swaths of public land and enormous caches of oil, natural gas and solar, wind and geothermal resources, Herbert, chairman of the Western Governors Association, said there's no reason the region shouldn't be a model for how to balance domestic energy production.

"The time for half-measures is past," he said in a statement. "We need an energy policy big enough to satisfy the world's growing appetite for energy."

He's behind an effort to develop a 10-year energy plan for the 19 states that belong to the association. Governors from many of the states kicked off discussions during a meeting last weekend in Arizona.

The governors are expected to have a draft of the plan ready by next summer, said Rich Halvey, a program director with the WGA.

"I think for the most part, there's a sense that we should be moving as much as we can toward North American energy security," he said.

According to the Energy Information Administration's latest projections, energy production in the U.S. will outpace energy consumption by 2040. The reasons include higher energy prices, better technology for tapping oil and gas reserves, more efficient vehicles and electronic gadgets, and state and federal standards.

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