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Former New Mexico U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici last week said hydrocarbons — in the form of oil and gas — "will be around for a long time."

Domenici, (a transcript of the speech he delivered at New Mexico State University's Domenici Public Policy Conference appears in today's oped section) said there is no other transport fuel — used to power cars, trucks, airplanes, ships and the like — with the energy density of hydrocarbons. Although we support the development of renewable energy sources, in their current forms they do not provide the kind of punch needed to push 18-wheelers down the highway or a cargo plane into the air. Also, renewables, without significant advances in energy storage technology, cannot provide the kind of round-the-clock power generation required by U.S. industry.

The demand for oil and gas is not going away anytime soon.

And despite the uncertainty caused by falling oil and gas prices, the situation will, as it always has, stabilize, and the industry will adapt.

So, all of that is our way of saying that we believe graduates of the San Juan College's new School of Energy — which celebrated its grand opening last week — will have bright and productive futures.

The school is set up to provide real-world (read oilfield) experience in a basin where people have been exploring and producing for many decades. They will gain not only nuts-and-bolts knowledge of equipment and logistics, they also will learn to work as part of a team. The preparation provided by the school should make its graduates competitive for jobs that provide a good income and open up options for world travel.

But there is more.

Beyond the basic education, they will become problem solvers. New technologies — horizontal drilling, walking rigs, exotic hydraulic fracturing fluid mixtures, etc. — have created an oil and gas production boom that is well on the way to making the United States energy independent. That production had the unintended consequence — exacerbated by consistently high production from Saudi Arabia and increasing production in Iraq — of literally flooding the market and pushing prices down.

However, those technologies also are lowering the cost of production, allowing relatively debt-free companies that are properly positioned to continue to operate in marginal areas such as the San Juan Basin.

It's possible a School of Energy student might be the one to discover a new approach that makes production even more cost effective. That's the kind of advancement that could jump start interest in this basin.

And the search for cleaner fuels very likely will boost the use of natural gas in the nation's power plants. The School of Energy is well positioned to provide that training, as well.

A wise investment in education pays dividends, and oil and gas production is an obvious choice for the Four Corners. The school is a welcome addition to our community.

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