From Presidential Debate No. 1 – Climate, Energy, Jobs
Posted September 30, 2020
Sifting through what was a rollicking presidential debate Tuesday night, searching for important takeaways … Let’s look at the discussion near the end of the event that focused on climate, energy policy and energy jobs – in which safe and responsible natural gas and oil production here at home is a critical player.
As was accurately noted during the debate, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector are at their lowest levels in a generation – primarily because of growing use of natural gas to fuel electricity generation. Natural gas is the leading fuel for U.S. power generation and is projected to continue leading for decades to come.
CO2 is an important greenhouse gas, and fuel switching to natural gas from coal has fundamentally changed the U.S. emissions picture. No other nation has reduced CO2 emissions more than the U.S. since 2000, according to the International Energy Agency.
Why it matters: More than talking about climate leadership, the United States is demonstrating climate leadership – with increased use of domestic natural gas at the heart of U.S. emissions reductions.
Abundant natural gas largely has been produced using modern hydraulic fracturing. Any policy that bans or curtails safe fracking – former Vice President Biden has made various fracking statements (see here, here and here) – would abandon natural gas’ climate and energy benefits. Natural gas is fundamental to meeting the dual challenge of supplying Americans with affordable, reliable energy while also protecting the environment. API President and CEO Mike Sommers:
“Today, the U.S. leads the world in emissions reductions, and there’s more work to be done. We’re investing and prioritizing breakthrough technologies to produce, refine and deliver cleaner, reliable and affordable energy …”
On jobs, during Tuesday’s debate the former vice president talked about the “green jobs” his energy plan would create. He distanced himself from the Green New Deal endorsed by leading House Democrats (discussed here and here), yet running mate Kamala Harris is cosponsoring it in the U.S. Senate and his campaign website says, “Biden believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.”
Plans and initiatives make great fodder for debates and the campaign trail, but in a period of economic uncertainty, brought on by the pandemic and measures designed to contain it, we need sound policies that, as a top priority, do no harm to American jobs.
Proposals to effectively end new natural gas and oil development on federal lands and waters – on Biden’s website and in the Democratic Party Platform – are projected to cost nearly 1 million jobs by 2022, according to a recent analysis. Read here for details on other potentially significant impacts to U.S. security, household energy costs. (Re: the climate discussion above, such a plan also is projected to increase coal use 15% by 2030 and increase CO2 emissions.)
Meanwhile, as we’ve discussed before, members of the U.S. labor movement are wary of pledges to redirect them from good-paying jobs associated with the natural gas and oil industry for “green-collar” jobs on some future horizon. North American Building Trades (NABTU) recently released two studies showing that union workers appreciate natural gas and oil jobs over renewable energy jobs for clear reasons: They pay better, last longer and provide better opportunity. NABTU President Sean McGarvey:
“We agree over the coming decades, we’re going to do more and more transition. But we can’t transition into careers where people take a 50% or 75% pay cut.”
Why it matters: Rather than stake American jobs, energy and economic growth on Green New Deal-like proposals, smart policy would recognize that the natural gas and oil industry already is a strong driver of the U.S. economy and, as noted above, is fundamental to climate progress – and will be for decades to come.
As we’ve pointed out (see here and here), natural gas also is critically important for the growth of the renewable energy that’s central to the vice president’s goals, providing reliable fuel for power generation when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining. In recent polling by Morning Consult, nearly seven in 10 voters in key battleground and other states agreed that natural gas and oil make renewables possible, and 73% believe natural gas and oil will be a significant part of America’s energy picture in 2040.
As the presidential race continues, Americans need straight talk on the ways that energy – specifically natural gas and oil – are integral to the nation’s economic, security, climate and environmental goals.
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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