Let's Talk Clean Energy
Posted September 27, 2017
API and a number of other groups are pleased to be participating in National Clean Energy Week, which is highlighting readily abundant energy needed to power homes and businesses that’s also helping the U.S. reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
We realize not everyone thinks API and some others fit in the clean energy conversation. But the fact is our industry is a clean energy leader, and we lay out the proofs below. Looking at the bigger picture, our industry must be in this conversation because natural gas and oil are the United States’ and the world’s leading energy sources now and will be well into the future. Our clean energy bonafides:
U.S. Carbon Reductions Are Tied to America’s Energy Renaissance
Emissions of carbon dioxide from electricity generation, which is a leading source of that greenhouse gas, have fallen to near-30 year lows. We haven’t seen CO2 emissions this low since the Bush Administration – the first one!
The main reason for the decline is increased use of domestic natural gas – brought to our homes, work places and utility companies by our industry. Abundant, affordable natural gas is driving U.S. carbon emissions reductions. U.S. Energy Information Administration data shows that the big decline in CO2 emissions coincides with the onset of the U.S. shale energy renaissance in the mid-2000s:
Now, renewable energy’s role in fueling electricity generation also is contributing to lower CO2 emissions. But as EIA reports, more than 60 percent of the decrease in energy-related carbon emissions since 2005 has come from fuel switching to natural gas:
Without question, our industry is making a big contribution on climate. We’re finding and developing the natural gas that was the leading fuel source for U.S. power generation last year. It’s just a fact that in our world today there’s more talk about climate than concrete action, more finger-pointing than problem-solving. The natural gas our industry brings to market to heat homes, cook meals, operate factories and to manufacture products Americans depend on every day, is action with results. API’s Marty Durbin in a Houston Chronicle op-ed:
Often lost in the debate about this serious, complex issue [climate change] is the fact that the U.S. actually has achieved remarkable success. We lead the world in both reduction of carbon emissions and in the production and refining of natural gas and oil. There is a direct connection between carbon reductions and America's energy renaissance. … Plentiful and affordable due to advances in production technology, the emergence of natural gas as part of the climate solution is market-driven, not government-mandated.
Industry is Reducing Its Methane Emissions
We’re producing natural gas at record levels – more than 27 trillion cubic feet in 2015, up more than 51 percent since 1990 – yet methane emissions from natural gas systems fell 16.3 percent over that same period, according to EPA.
This is significant progress on another emissions/climate front, done without sacrificing energy and economic growth. It’s largely the result of advances in technology to reduce leaks – which industry has market incentives to continue because methane is the main component in natural gas. Howard Feldman, API’s senior director for regulatory and scientific affairs, at a recent EPA public hearing:
“We’re doing our part and these trends are indicative of what our industry, when given the freedom to innovate, can achieve to improve the environment while protecting our nation’s energy security. And progress will continue.”
This week ExxonMobil announced a new program to install environmentally efficient equipment and more leak detection devices to reduce methane emissions in throughout its onshore U.S. shale oil and natural gas operations. The company plans a three-year phase out of all natural gas-powered production equipment that may emit methane, replacing it with lower-emission designs that use compressed air instead. Sara Ortwein, president of the company’s XTO Energy subsidiary:
Our long track record in managing methane emissions includes a mix of voluntary and applicable regulatory actions, as well as collaboration with academic institutions, non-governmental organizations and government agencies. Today’s announcement builds on that work.What lights the path on this journey to reducing methane emissions? Research. Advanced research and testing will drive further innovations to help us make adjustments, introduce new and better equipment, and continue to improve how we design facilities.
Other companies have significantly reduced their emissions, too. Reducing methane emissions is good business, and it’s good for the environment – and it shows that we can safely develop the energy needed to support a modern standard of living while also making climate progress.
We’re Investing in Getting Cleaner
Talk is cheap. Taking action to produce cleaner operations and cleaner products takes money – and industry is spending it to invent substitute and less carbon-intensive fuels, by supporting technologies such as wind, solar, biofuels, geothermal and others, and by improving efficiency and pursuing technologies such as carbon capture and storage and advanced technology vehicles.
From 2000-2014, industry has spent almost $90 billion on these types of emissions-reducing initiatives – almost as much as the rest of U.S.-based private industries combined. Industry operations themselves also are getting cleaner, the result investments of more than $321 billion since 1990.
These data points reflect a commitment to be part of the clean energy and climate conversation and real solutions that tackle the twin challenge of making progress on these fronts while supplying individual Americans and the broader economy with the energy needed to sustain our prosperity, supports opportunity and improves Americans’ lives. API President and CEO Jack Gerard, during a recent interview with E&E News:
“We believe the best approach to [climate] is to focus on solutions, and I say that intentionally because it’s important that we get over what the debate has been the past decade in this country – are you a believer, are you a denier? If we all agree it’s a challenge, then what’s the solution? … Our approach is to move beyond that and say, let’s all agree [that] if it’s a challenge then let’s focus on the solution.”
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. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. 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 have two grown children and six grandchildren.