On Earth Day, Focusing on the Modern Energy Mix
Posted April 22, 2019
Earth Day 2019 finds the United States much better off environmentally than it was nearly 50 years ago, when the first Earth Day was marked in 1970. Much of the credit for that belongs to the nation’s energy sector where, thanks to the U.S. natural gas and oil revolution, Americans can talk about sustainable energy, economic growth and environmental/climate progress – all in the same breath of markedly cleaner air:
As the graphic from EPA’s most recent air trends report shows, the combined emissions of the six common pollutants tracked by the agency fell 73 percent between 1970 and 2017 – even as the economy and U.S. population grew and Americans drove more miles. Cleaner fuels and more efficient engines have played major roles. Increased use of clean natural gas in power generation is the main reason energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are at their lowest levels in a generation.
Most importantly, on Earth Day 2019 we see multiple benefits of a modern energy mix, anchored by abundant natural gas and oil, which is at the heart of growth and simultaneous progress on important environmental and climate fronts. The modern U.S. natural gas and oil industry is leading in driving this progress. As API President and CEO Mike Sommers said this post last week:
Thanks to technological breakthroughs, America leads the world not only in production of natural gas and oil but in reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. And no other country comes close. … America’s natural gas and oil industry has invested billions – more than double that of any other industry – in zero- and low-emissions technologies. … We’ve reduced our surface footprint by up to 90 percent, and industry innovation has cut emissions of ozone precursors and methane – all while achieving record high production that has boosted economic growth, national security and household savings.
Indeed, our energy future is one that builds on this progress, with natural gas partnering with renewable energy sources including wind and solar to provide Americans with reliable power. Check out this API-sponsored content in the Washington Post:
Keeping a power grid stable and efficient at times of peak demand is a huge challenge, particularly when the grid is supplied by intermittent power sources. While solar offers a low-emission option, it doesn’t provide 24-hour power; generation invariably dips in the late afternoon and evening, for example, even on cloudless days. Meanwhile, California’s push for solar has been accompanied by the net loss of 789 megawatts of reliable natural gas capacity that was previously available to meet peak loads. … So where do we turn? The answer may be in the very fuel California has been attempting to phase out—natural gas. These sources aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, there is a compelling case to be made for natural gas as an enabler of renewables, helping solar and wind to continue on their growth path by providing a reliable, clean and relatively low-cost supply of power that ensures the grid operates reliably.
This market-driven, consumer-friendly partnership, where there’s a level playing field for all energy sources, is the realistic way forward. To that point, a new University of Chicago study finds that mandated Renewable Portfolio Standards in 29 states and the District of Columbia impacted consumers through higher electricity costs – with retail prices increasing 11 percent seven years after implementation and 17 percent 12 years afterward.
Earth Day is about responsibility and sustainability. The natural gas and oil industry supplies the abundant, affordable energy that’s critical to power the modern U.S. economy, while also providing leadership in advancing environmental and climate goals. This energy also is integral to the growth and reliability of renewable energy sources. Sommers:
At every stage of our operations, the U.S. natural gas and oil industry is meeting the climate challenge head-on. And we’re committed to building on our success, meeting growing world demand for energy that’s affordable, reliable and sustainable.
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.
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