Let me start off by saying I never asked to become a columnist again. As you probably know, this space has been occupied for the last few years by our friend, colleague and editor-in-chief, Steve Toon. With Steve’s sudden passing, someone needs to step into this column space, which was also once occupied by Leslie Haines, the now semi-retired editor who built this magazine for most of its 40 years. So, I must admit, I’m a bit nervous stepping on to this ground.
Sure, I’ve been a columnist on and off throughout my career as a journalist, but I respect this specific page greatly, so hence my apprehension.
As the title of this column shifts from “From the Editor-in-Chief” to “No One Asked Me, But …” I’m summoning that wildcatter spirit. I am ready to explore the industry and ready to take on the challenge, albeit with a different style than my predecessors.
With that said, here it goes. Get ready for some streams of thought about what I’ve heard, seen and read as I cover the energy business.
Oil and gas greed?
Sorry, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, but your letter to 12 natural gas CEOs accusing them of “corporate greed” doesn’t seem to have much merit. There’s so much the senator from Massachusetts has overlooked about the natural gas market. I’m not the only one who thinks she’s misguided. Toby Rice, CEO of the country’s largest natural gas producer, EQT Corp., eloquently pointed out the shortcomings of her accusations in his letter released on Dec. 7.
I was fortunate enough to get the first interview with Rice merely an hour after his letter as we chatted on stage at the DUG East Conference in Pittsburgh. He wasn’t interested in holding back, even pointing out that Sen. Warren has made similar greed accusations against other industries, including poultry producers and banking. Fair enough, if there’s corporate greed sticking it to the masses, by all means call them out and more. But let’s make sure we know what we are talking about first, Senator.
As Rice told me—and our audience—on stage, “The facts are clear. U.S. LNG powered by the Marcellus Shale is the biggest green initiative on the planet.” He added, “We shouldn’t be thinking about cutting down LNG exports, we should be thinking about doing more.”
Here are some of those facts, courtesy of Rice’s response to Sen. Warren and his comments to me at DUG East. The U.S. has brought down emissions by nearly 970 million tons per year, mainly because of the switch from coal to natural gas. Meanwhile, if the U.S. increases LNG exports to replace China’s planned coal power plants with natural gas, Rice said it would reduce about 370 MMmt of CO₂, which is roughly equivalent to the emissions reduction impact of the entire U.S. renewables sector.
But is the gas certified?
One of the liveliest conversations we had at DUG East was about certified natural gas. I was able to chat on stage with Jennifer Stewart, longtime natural gas industry executive and a principal advisor for Equitable Origin, a non-profit organization that works to certify natural gas so that producers and buyers—hear that, people of France— understand that your gas has been produced under the highest social and environmental standards.
Before you scoff at the notion, understand a packed room of natural gas producers and investors took an active interest in engaging the conversation. It’s clearly a subject that is being taken seriously in oil and gas circles. Hear that, Sen. Warren?
What was most notable during the session was the belief that while certification might not lead to premium pricing for natural gas, it most certainly will become the difference in whether or not you can actually sell your gas in the future.
I think it’s obvious certified natural gas has more than piqued the interest of natural gas producers. Stewart and I had a hard time getting off the stage as we were bombarded with questions from the audience.
Don’t think certification and ESG requirements are going away anytime soon.
Scoff at them at your peril.
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