Columnist Gets it Wrong – Energy Companies Can Help Shape a Cleaner Future
Posted January 27, 2020
In his Jan. 10 column, the Houston Chronicle’s Chris Tomlinson took some shots at API’s new Energy for Progress campaign, which I addressed in a letter to the Chronicle’s editor. There’s only so much you can say in the 250 words you’re allotted for an LTE, so I thought I’d tackle Tomlison’s criticisms in greater detail here – actually, the kind of back-and-forth we’re trying to spark in our campaign.
For starters, Chris – like some politicians – fell prey to a tired and inaccurate caricature of the industry and dedicated his column to questioning our industry’s intentions instead of dedicating ink to the actual objectives before modern society – addressing the growing challenge of climate change while also making sure Americans have the energy they need.
He would be well served to take a second look. In fact, his Jan. 10 piece reverses the view he expressed in a column last fall – “Oil and gas companies are part of climate change solution” – which applauded the industry for continuing to take action on reducing emissions and introducing new technologies to meet the climate challenge.
Unfortunately, sometimes the first instinct these days is to devote too much oxygen – too many social media posts and columns and too much airtime – to fighting and pointing fingers when, we have real problems to solve. The climate is indeed changing, and demand for cleaner energy around the world is rising.
What Chris calls “hogwash” is actually our industry coming together to pioneer shared long-term solutions to a growing global problem.
Another point in his column worth contesting: Our industry doesn’t “luck” into progress or innovations as Tomlinson asserts. Reducing U.S. emissions to their lowest levels in a generation took the brainpower, grit and determination of engineers and skilled workers behind energy extractions like fracking. From modeling, staging and perfecting to testing new programs and systems, these innovations help us use less water, less land and protect local environments.
You need that innovation and determination to continue the U.S. energy leadership we’re seeing today. The U.S. leads the world in natural gas and oil production and carbon dioxide emissions reductions, and it invests nearly as much as the entire U.S. government to innovate the technologies to be more precise, efficient and productive while reducing our environmental footprint. The 21st-century energy field is hard hats and high tech. It’s steel-toed boots and artificial intelligence. And there’s more work to be done.
Policy proposals on capturing and sequestering carbon are also essential and you will see our industry advocating for climate proposals like these and others in the months ahead. Initiatives like The Environmental Partnership are equally important to catalyze expertise among companies to share technologies, best practices and goals to reduce methane emissions. And they’re part of the reason why methane emission rates are down nearly 70% in the largest producing regions (data here and here).
Evolutions and innovations in this industry are not new. Natural gas and oil companies have long been at the heart of piloting new approaches – including renewable technologies, biofuels and storage – to meet ever-growing consumer energy demands.
It’s why college graduates continue to look to our industry for good-paying jobs and career opportunities. They see the industry’s innovation, its advanced technologies and that we’re well on our way and best positioned to help shape a cleaner future.
Millennials make up more than one-third of the jobs supported by natural gas and oil today and that number is expected to rise in the next decade. They recognize that as energy technologies and sources multiply, natural gas and oil remain and are projected to remain the foundation of modern life, integral to our daily doings and human progress.
The size of the climate challenge requires a tremendous response and innovative thought from everyone. We’re energy companies, committed to continuing to do our part as our new campaign highlights.
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.