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For years, the debate about energy, climate change and the energy transition among public policymakers in the U.S. has been polarized by extremes: One side goes all out for ending fossil fuels and supporting renewables, while the other side focuses solely on domestic fossil energy production, anti-carbon management and ESG.
But this is not the way it works for the folks who actually invest in and produce energy. Policy makers have fantastic notions about what is possible and what is not, what is financially feasible and what is not and what is best for national security, the economy and the environment.
The energy transition is something that has been taking place largely from within our traditional energy industry complex and from technology companies, academia and financial institutions. The same types of talents and disciplines that enable traditional energy are being utilized all along the energy value chain.
I have the fortune of being able to engage with energy and technology companies every day, both big and small, that are performing amazing feats by increasing our energy production, transport, processing and export, and are reducing carbon content and environmental footprint. Incentives provided though federal programs, like those in the Inflation Reduction Act, are helping to accelerate investment in big projects. At the same time, U.S. companies with experienced professionals and know-how are making it all happen in real time.
The truth is, we are doing it all. We are increasing our energy production and we are lowering our carbon footprint through fossil and traditional energy sources—and through renewables. We are a global leader in energy production—oil, gas, refined product, renewables, nuclear—and we are a net exporter. This puts us in a position of great strength. Most nations around the world envy the position we are in, but we choose instead to fight about it and to not take full advantage of it.
When Russia invaded Ukraine and Russian gas was cut off from Europe, the U.S. stepped up and sent LNG to Europe to help it get through a tough stretch and lessen the impact to the European economy. Our energy production keeps our adversaries at bay. It enables us to have a military presence around the world and to help defend our allies.
While we are producing record amounts of energy today, it is still not enough. U.S. energy— fossil-based or renewable—is cleaner than the global average. Our LNG can help emerging economies in Asia reduce their reliance and consumption of coal, which will not only help lift them out of poverty but reduce their overall greenhouse gas emissions. We are also a global leader in decarbonization technology like carbon capture and storage and hydrogen. This is a win for everyone.
But to get there we need an energy policy that acknowledges the benefits the U.S. achieves from being the leader in global energy production and in lower-carbon energy and decarbonization technology. Such a policy needs to focus on:
- Regulatory certainty;
- A modern and reliable distribution system of pipelines and transmission; and
- A foreign policy that recognizes and prioritizes the strategic geopolitical role of energy.
On the regulatory front, all forms of energy and decarbonization technologies require permitting and regulatory approvals. Congress needs to act now to address regulatory hurdles and backlogs and get sound regulations in place, where needed, to enable the energy transition.
This includes regulations for composite pipelines that carry hydrogen, and state primacy for Class 6 wells for CO2 storage. It also includes permitting and leasing for traditional oil and gas, renewable energy and associated infrastructure. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Ranking Republican John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) have been working on comprehensive permitting reform for many months. They need help from their colleagues to make it a reality in 2024.
In order to send LNG overseas, send CO2 to storage and send hydrogen to market, we are going to need more pipelines. We need reforms that make it easier to build new pipelines and stop the endless lawsuits blocking them. Our aging transmission infrastructure puts our entire economy at risk. Congress and the states need to act to modernize our transmission grid and make it less vulnerable to weather and to attacks by adversaries.
Finally, we need to act on the global stage like the energy leader that we are and stop apologizing for our success. The world needs our leadership to meet the energy and climate challenges of our days. We have the solutions. Let’s lead the world with sound policies that recognize and foster our capabilities.
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