The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Grounding Energy Policy in Reality

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted August 27, 2013

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz emphasized the Obama administration’s commitment to curbing CO2 emissions during an appearance at Columbia University Monday, but he also stressed that energy policies must be grounded in reality:

  • The administration is focused on reducing energy-related CO2 and recognizes the significant, positive role natural gas is playing in the lowest U.S. emissions in two decades.

  • The administration is encouraged by the progress of new technologies, including electric cars and photovoltaic power, but recognizes that the United States must have dependable energy from oil and natural gas.

  • Dramatic increases in domestic oil and natural gas production are strengthening the U.S. in the world.

While much of Moniz’s Columbia speech centered on the administration’s Climate Action Plan, he said its “all-of-the-above” energy strategy is tethered to reality:

“Let’s start with the ground truth. Eighty percent of our energy today is fossil derived. The transportation sector is still today … largely dependent on oil as the transportation fuel. We’ve talked here about hopefully going to a future where we see a lot more electric vehicles using low-carbon electricity. But the reality is, in the energy business it’s extremely hard to see very, very rapid changes in the deployment. So we have to be practical, pragmatic, totally committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, doing so and accelerating that to the extent we can within the current realities.”

As Moniz said, this is an important starting point. Oil and natural gas run our economy and are largely responsible for modern lifestyles. Moniz said the administration’s goal is to push technologies so that all U.S. energy sources can help sustain our standard of living and help provide broad economic opportunity – and help counter climate change:

“Our approach to this is, we must reduce CO2 emissions. The president has a near-term target of 17 percent reduction from 2005 by 2020, and we’re about halfway there. But the idea is that all of the above means that we will invest in the technology, research, development and demonstration so that all of our energy sources can be enabled as marketplace competitors in a low-carbon energy world. … If you look at what are we doing about it in terms of the fossil energy sources, in the president’s Climate Action Plan there was a directive to issue a solicitation for up to $8 billion in loan guarantees for fossil energy projects that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There could be a whole bunch of them. … We’re saying, come forth with good ideas to stretch the technology in the fossil-based sources, reducing CO2 emissions.”

Again, this is a positive, realistic approach and one America’s oil and natural gas industry is advancing. Our industry is a leader in developing low- and zero-carbon technologies, investing $71 billion from 2000 to 2010 – compared to $43 billion by the federal government and $74 billion by the rest of U.S. private industry combined.

Yet, the heavy lift on reducing U.S. CO2 emissions is being done by natural gas, which Moniz stressed despite the presence of natural gas opponents in the Columbia U audience:

“It is a fact that in these last years the natural gas revolution has been a major contributor to reducing carbon emissions. The president has a goal of 17 percent by 2020, we are about halfway there and about half of that is because of the substitution of natural gas for coal in the private sector – essentially driven by market forces.”

Meanwhile, he said, the development of energy from vast U.S. shale deposits is shifting balances in the world:

“What we’re seeing here is a substitution for (oil) imports. This has significant economic benefits. It’s not changing the carbon balance specifically, but it is certainly reducing our balance of payments substantially. Not long ago we were spending a billion dollars a day on imported oil. That’s now at its lowest level in many, many years, and our production is at its highest level in many, many years … ”

Such are the elements of a true good-news story. The U.S. has the opportunity to advance new technologies because of its oil and natural gas wealth – wealth that is enriching our country and making it more secure in the world. On climate, the U.S. is leading all other industrialized nations in reducing CO2 emissions because of abundant, clean-burning natural gas.

As we go forward we should recognize that one our country’s strengths is oil and natural gas energy – for now and in the future, the basis for economic growth and security and for developing the next generation of energy technologies.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.