Two Energy Visions

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted February 8, 2016

It has been clear for months that the Obama administration has lost interest in a true “all-of-the-above” approach to the nation’s energy – one that is being led by surging oil and natural gas production right here at home. Consider:

  • Despite multiple State Department reviews filled with science showing that rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline would result in higher emissions, the president killed the project and the 42,000 jobs it would support during its construction phase.
  • Despite the fact U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are near 20-year lows, the administration is pushing ahead with its Clean Power Plan that favors only certain kinds of renewable energy instead of letting states to freely choose lower-emissions sources while ensuring affordable and reliable energy for consumers.
  • Although methane emissions from natural gas production are dropping, EPA and the Bureau of Land Management are moving forward with additional layers of regulation that could raise the cost of natural gas production and chill investments needed to bring cleaner-burning gas to market.
  • Despite bipartisan agreement that the Renewable Fuel Standard is a failure – that mandates for increasing ethanol use actually increases greenhouse gas emissions – EPA continues to push for more ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply.

The administration’s latest anti-energy revolution proposal is an ill-conceived plan to slap a $10-per-barrel fee or tax on crude oil that could increase the cost of a barrel of crude by 30 percent and add 25 cents to the price of a gallon of gasoline.

It’s all unfortunate, given the opportunities that have come the administration’s way – through little or no intent on its own – because of a U.S. energy renaissance that had made America the world’s leading producer of oil and natural gas, and a world leader in reducing carbon emissions.

Incredibly, the administration looked at American progress on a number of fronts – energy production, economic growth, lower consumer costs and environmental benefits – and concluded it was time for a tax hike on that progress. At the same time, its rhetoric has emboldened an anti-progress, anti-modern “leave-it-in-the-ground” movement that wants federal oil and natural gas reserves closed to safe development and that opposes virtually all new energy infrastructure.  

In a conference call with reporters, API President and CEO Jack Gerard talked about the growing gap between the administration’s energy-limiting, anti-competitive, anti-consumer vision and a pro-development approach, with its demonstrated benefits across the country, across our economy. Gerard:

“It appears that the administration’s last year is dedicated to furthering an extremist agenda at the very real expense of the middle class and low-income families, through tax hikes on energy and a barrage of unnecessary and duplicative regulations that are catering to the well-funded, radical whims of leave it in the ground activists.”

Instead of seizing America’s energy opportunity – one that has the United States succeeding in advancing climate goals – the administration is pursuing policies that will cause a retreat from the gains of the past few years. Gerard:

“Only extremists whose goals ignore the concerns of consumers and lower-income families would welcome such an approach. If the administration ignores [our energy] and continues to adhere to radical thinking that pits increased energy production against climate goals, it will leave a legacy harming consumers and squandering America’s incredible opportunity to lead the world in both energy production and carbon emissions reductions.”

Gerard called the $10 oil fee a “wake-up call” to the reality of the “leave-it-in-the-ground” movement: harm to consumers, diminished U.S. competitiveness, weakened energy security and a return to energy dependence. “It’s a head-in-the-sand movement,” he said.

The limiting, anti-consumer aspect of this approach is unfolding in New England, where pipelines to bring natural gas to the region, to produce heat and more affordable electricity, are being assailed by anti-infrastructure advocates. This, despite the fact New Englanders paid up to 68 percent more for electricity than the national average last winter, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. A recent study warned that failure to invest in energy infrastructure would cost New England households and businesses $5.4 billion in higher energy costs between 2016 and 2020.

Opposition to energy infrastructure is shortsighted and dismissive of the needs of American consumers – a point not lost on U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island who set aside his opposition to fossil fuels recently to support construction of a natural gas-fired power plant in his state, to keep constituents from paying higher costs for energy than other customers. Gerard:

“Today New England consumers pay about 67 percent more for their energy than others around the country. Why? Because of infrastructure deficiencies, because we don’t have the pipeline capability necessary to move natural gas into that corridor. … Unfortunately, [some] basically are taking issue with building that infrastructure. I think it’s wrong, I think the American public, once they become aware of it and what it means to them as consumers, is going to stand up and revolt.”

Infrastructure as a political football is symptomatic of competing visions for the nation’s energy – a divergence that makes energy policy a key issue for U.S. voters this year. One would sustain and expand the gains, the progress, that America’s energy revolution has generated. The other would take America back – to greater scarcity, costs and imports. Gerard:

“The contrast between energy visions has never been clearer. The leave it in the ground approach could drag America back to energy dependence, raise consumer costs, destroy jobs and damage the economy. With a pro-energy strategy, on the other hand, the United States would remain a world energy leader, with strong oil and natural gas production and refining – bringing with it jobs, and clean and affordable energy for consumers and businesses.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joins API after spending 16 years as national editorial writer in the Washington Bureau of The Oklahoman newspaper. In all, he has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years, including six years as sports editor at The Washington Times. He lives in Occoquan, Virginia, with his wife Pamela. Mark graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in journalism and earned a masters in journalism and public affairs at American University. He's currently working on a masters in history at George Mason University, where he also teaches as an adjunct professor in the Communication Department.

Energy Tomorrow is a project of the American Petroleum Institute – the only national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry – speaking for the industry to the public, Congress and the Executive Branch, state governments and the media.