Posted February 14, 2018
Climate activists are trying to rally folks around an extreme agenda of halting new fossil-fuel projects, denying natural gas and oil industry’s financial support by pressuring lenders and investors and pushing for a fast transition to renewable energy. (With New England and other parts of the U.S. shivering under winter conditions, agitating to deprive the U.S. of its two leading energy sources seems pretty tone deaf.)
Well, let’s just say their caricature of our industry is all wrong.
Today’s natural gas and oil is new, technologically advanced, forward-looking and committed to strengthening the communities where we operate. Our companies are environmentally active as never before – while producing the energy the United States needs today and will need tomorrow to build a better future. This isn’t your daddy’s oil:
To the fossil-free crowd – and, really, everyone – five things to know about our industry’s environmental and climate efforts:
1. We’re Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emissions
While there’s lots of talk about doing something about greenhouse gases, the natural gas and oil industry is a major reason the U.S. is reducing emissions:
Largely because of increased use of abundant natural gas that our industry brings to consumers, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from power generation have decreased 25 percent since 2005, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). CO2 emissions from energy use across the entire economy are at their lowest levels in nearly 25 years.
That’s significant progress, and it leads the world. Even better: It happened as the economy expanded – meaning growth and emissions reduction can occur at the same time. This is especially important with the EIA saying natural gas will continue to be America’s leading energy source for electrical generation.
2. We’re Reducing Methane While Producing More Than Ever
According to EPA, methane emissions during natural gas and oil production have fallen – and it’s not hard to know why. Methane is a major component of natural gas, which our companies are in the business of bringing to consumers. Operators are highly motivated to capture as much methane as possible so it can benefit residential, business and manufacturing users.
3. We’re Committed For the Long Haul
In December natural gas and oil companies established The Environmental Partnership, whose initial objective is to continue reducing methane emissions with programs that are focused on three of the greatest sources of industry-related emissions.
The partnership is a major commitment by industry to keep reducing methane emissions through collaboration and learning – while becoming publicly accountable. Participation in the program, which now includes 29 members, continues to grow, and its expansion to include other natural gas and oil exploration and production companies is an early priority. Mark Berg of Pioneer Natural Resources, one of the participants:
“We have been able to produce more natural gas while also lowering emissions. But rather than rest on these accomplishments, this industry is seeking to build on them. The Environmental Partnership will help America’s natural gas and oil industry share goals, technologies and best practices that will make our environmental performance even stronger.”
4. We’re Putting Our Money Where Our Mouth Is
Spending more than $339 billion between 1990 and 2016 to improve the environmental performance of our operations, facilities and products, means the natural gas and oil industry is walking the talk. We’re investing in technologies and innovations that help our country run cleaner. More than $17 billion was spent on the environment in 2016 alone, API estimates.
In addition, industry investments in zero- and low-carbon technologies in support of substitute and less carbon-intensive fuels and other energy technologies totaled nearly $90 billion from 2000 to 2014 – almost as much as the rest of U.S.-based private industries combined.
5. Many of Our Best Minds Are On It
Brain power matters. Industry scientists and engineers with individual companies are hard at work on the technologies and processes to continuously improve the performance of our products and our abilities to protect the environment. One example: Anadarko’s Colleen Faber spends most of her time making sure the natural landscape where her company operates is as good or better than it was before operations began:
“Before any kind of development begins we use geographic information systems data to vet locations, so we can evaluate risks and make the best possible selection. … Once we pick a location, we do extensive monitoring at the surface to understand the vegetation and soil, so we know exactly how to restore the land once it’s time to shrink our footprint. … By using surface pipelines to bring in water during drilling and fracking, along with remote telemetry that lets us monitor everything happening at the well sites without having to make daily visits, we’ve made huge reductions in vehicle traffic. This makes our operations safer and better for the environment, for wildlife and for communities.”
As for some folks’ idea of a fossil fuel-free America, there’s the real world in which most Americans work, live and raise their families, and then there’s the world of ideology. In the real world, natural gas and oil – as we’ve detailed above – are leading the way on reducing emissions and protecting the environment for the future. The energy future includes this: Natural gas is the essential partner for the renewable energies the fossil-free people support – providing fuel for quick-ramping electricity generation when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing, supplying feedstock for making turbine blades and photovoltaic solar cells and more. Renewable energy must be accompanied by clean natural gas.
Economically, our industry supports the livelihoods of 10.3 million Americans in all 50 states. Our products keep the country running. Indeed, with EIA, the International Energy Agency and other legitimate forecasting agencies projecting that global demand for oil and natural gas will increase over the decades to come, the security and prosperity of the United States – and the modern lifestyles Americans enjoy – are tied to our nation’s ability to ensure abundant, dependable supplies of natural gas and oil.
To build a better future – one that is better economically, environmentally and from a security standpoint – the U.S. must safely and responsibly develop its natural gas and oil reserves and reject an ideologically driven alternate reality that’s yesterday: darker, colder, less mobile and less free. America’s 21st-century natural gas and oil industry is helping build a better future. API President and CEO Jack Gerard:
“Energy makes America strong, and our country grows stronger when the nation is resolved to harness its vast energy reserves to meet seemingly impossible challenges. America’s natural gas and oil industry stands ready to act on that national resolve, to secure a bright future for all of us.”
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. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. 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 live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.