The Feat That is America's Energy Revolution
Posted March 29, 2019
The U.S. energy revolution remains a feat to behold. Benefits to the economy, consumers and manufacturing and a boost to America’s stature in the world and our national security. API President and CEO Mike Sommers touched on a number of these points during a conversation at the National Review Institute’s 2019 Ideas Summit.
U.S. energy self-sufficiency
The United States is increasingly in control of its energy destiny, thanks to “American innovation and American production,” Sommers said during the discussion with National Review’s Kevin D. Williamson (left, above) and the Manhattan Institute’s Robert Bryce (center). “For our future energy needs, that’s how we’re going to supply the world.”
The energy revolution wasn’t launched by government intervention but by the “private market meeting the needs of American and world consumers,” he said. And manufacturing, recounting how a steel plant in Louisiana was dismantled and shipped on barges to Trinidad in 2004, only to return to Louisiana with the surge in abundant U.S. energy. Sommers:
Energy abundance is “a huge issue for American consumers. But you also think about what this has done American manufacturing. … (The Louisiana plant) is an amazing American success story … those in manufacturing and agriculture – you know how important energy is to the continued development of the American manufacturing base. And the reason why American manufacturing came back is because of inexpensive energy.”
Thanks to increased use of natural gas in the power-generation sector, U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions have fallen to their lowest level in a generation – even as global CO2 emissions have risen 50 percent since 1990. Sommers:
“The most important environmental achievement that has occurred in the last 25 years is because of the shale revolution in the United States, period. Because we have been able to produce natural gas in a less expensive way, and because gas has been cheaper than other fuel sources, there’s a fuel switch that has occurred – mainly from coal to natural gas. (As a result) we have the cleanest air in a generation. And that is something we should be celebrating. It’s something the environmental movement should be celebrating.”
Sommers called natural gas the “backbone” to the future of renewable energy, because intermittent sources such as solar and wind need a partner when they’re not available. The natural gas an oil industry is integral to America’s energy present and future, he said:
“You do want this industry, the current energy industry, to be part of that future. This is an industry that consistently meets consumer demand. One of the things we discern from … this process is that American consumers are really requesting three things from this industry. … They want affordable, reliable and sustainable energy. And this industry on a daily basis is trying to meet those three challenges of the energy trilemma. They do want less environmental footprint in terms of their energy sources. So, this industry is investing a lot in what that energy future looks like.”
Opportunity to help others
The session included discussion of global “energy poverty.” Sommers said more than 1 billion people around the world do not have access to affordable, reliable energy – and we’re not talking about some people in New York’s Westchester County, where there’s a moratorium on new natural gas service because of insufficient pipeline capacity, largely stemming from state policies. Bryce said about 3 billion people, 40 percent of the world’s population, use less electricity annually than his refrigerator. Sommers:
“We need to be thinking about this from a moral perspective, too. How are we going to make sure that the people who live in (energy) poverty today are going to get access to safe, reliable energy, because we know that energy is the foundation of every economy in the world. It’s going to be natural gas and it’s going to be other sources of energy that meet those needs.”
Policy priorities: Permitting and Trade
The energy revolution needs sound policy approaches to be sustained and to grow. Sommers said he’s focused on pipeline permitting and obstacles to critical infrastructure – privately financed projects that are essential for Americans in all parts of the country to benefit from U.S. energy abundance.
American energy also needs trade policies that support, not hinder, natural gas oil development and delivery. Sommers said the administration’s Section 232 tariffs on imported steel and other trade restrictions negatively impact industry, the U.S. economy and consumers.
Abundant natural gas and oil reserves, technology and innovation created this revolution and, with the right policies, the U.S. can sustain and grow its energy leadership. “For our future energy needs,” Sommers said, “that’s how we’re going to supply the world.”
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.