A Force For Good
Posted June 13, 2019
John Watson, then the chairman and CEO of Chevron, once was asked how the natural gas and oil industry is perceived since so much of the climate discussion is aimed solely at producing fossil fuels.
Unflinchingly, Watson countered that his industry is a noble one – delivering light, heat, transportation, food, clothing and other benefits to people every day – and that natural gas and oil are foundational for almost everything that we use and do. Simply put, Watson asserted that natural gas and oil are forces for good in human development and far from a deterrent (and instead an enabler) of climate progress.
It was an argument for the societal value of natural gas and oil and the opportunities they create, thanks to U.S. energy abundance. Connecting communities with energy and opportunity remains a pillar of our industry today – especially when you consider America’s growing capacity to share energy with the rest of the world, where many areas haven’t benefited from abundant or reliable energy.
The Paris-based International Energy Agency calls energy access “the golden thread” that enables human development, economic growth and environmental sustainability. Since 2000, 1.2 billion people have gained access to energy worldwide – driven largely by natural gas and oil. Consider this: fueling power generation around the world – creating access to the light people can read by – is moral. Advancing health through modern technologies and devices made with natural gas and oil is moral. Creating jobs and growing economies around the world is moral. Providing clean fuels so people can safely heat their homes and cook their food without harming the air they breathe is moral – especially when you consider that an estimated 2.8 billion today do not have access to clean cooking facilities.
More broadly, ending energy poverty, which in some parts of the world consigns human beings to shorter lives marked by daily struggle, is moral. API President and CEO Mike Sommers recently put it this way:
“This industry has done more to help the human condition than any industry in the history of time. Every day the natural gas and oil industry works to provide safe, affordable, reliable and increasingly sustainable fuel for the American people, and thanks to increasing U.S. exports, we are helping others around the world.”
Our world today is better because of natural gas and oil. The world’s economies are powered by them and, more to the point here, the people of the world need them. Nearly 1 billion still live without electricity today. Access to safe, abundant, affordable energy is fundamental to the chance for people to be healthy and more prosperous.
Recently, Pope Francis told a conference of the globe’s finance ministers that efforts to meet climate goals are being foiled by continued fossil fuel investments – by a “confusion of our moral ledger with our financial ledger.”
Respectfully, and for the humanitarian reasons noted above, we believe natural gas and oil and the benefits from them belong on that moral ledger. Our industry is committed to safe and responsible development that protects people and the environment – with energy and end products that are indispensable for lifting people out of poverty and improving human existence. Energy is essential to turn hope into reality.
Our industry recognizes the climate challenge by meeting it head on with new technologies to continue lowering greenhouse gas emissions – even as it supplies the natural gas and oil for our nation and others. In this there also is climate progress: Increased use of natural gas has helped the U.S. achieve the most important environmental goal in three decades – the cleanest air in generations.
Additionally, natural gas and oil are necessary for renewable energy sources to grow. They’re used in manufacturing solar panels and wind turbine blades. Natural gas partners with renewables in the power sector, providing fuel for balanced generation to meet demand when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining. Many materials found in lower-emission vehicles are made from petroleum and/or natural gas hydrocarbons, and batteries are charged with electricity, much of which was generated with natural gas as the fuel.
Natural gas and oil will play an essential role in building a cleaner future – even as they continue to lift people out of poverty today.
As a Catholic myself, I especially appreciate the Holy Father’s passion for meeting humanitarian challenges and easing global suffering. The energy developed by our industry helps in achieving both. And despite what some assert, we are creating solutions to the climate challenge, too.
About The Author
Megan Barnett Bloomgren is API's senior vice president for communications. She came to API in 2017 after serving as acting deputy chief of staff for the U.S. Department of the Interior, where she directed communications and policy-related actions for the secretary. Before joining the administration, Meg was a partner at DCI Group, a public affairs consulting firm in Washington, D.C. Prior to DCI, she led strategy and operations for the Institute for 21st Century Energy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which followed positions at the U.S. Energy Department, the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency. Meg is a graduate of La Salle University in Philadelphia.