Clean Energy, Pipelines and Politics – Estes Park Trail-Gazette
In our reflections on infrastructure, energy, buildings, sustainability, transport and climate, we try to shed light on information that in recent years has been peppered with dog whistles, gaslights , incitement to fear and “alternative facts”. For example, there are no facts to support claims that the cancellation of the Keystone pipeline cost thousands of long-term American jobs. Facts show that the number of permanent jobs the pipeline would have created would be less than 50. We wrote about this in the Trail Gazette on January 29, 2021.(https://www.eptrail.com/2022/03/ 09/together-we-build-cancel-keystone-xl-pipeline-makes-good-business-sense/) Yesterday in her daily letters to an American newsletter, historian Heather Cox Richardson discusses the current state of the oil and gas with historical accuracy, including keystone details we didn’t know before. For factual information, read its newsletter and its sources. (https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/march-8-2022?r=f9js7&s=r&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=email)
In the current global situation, any dependence on foreign gas and oil imports must be reconsidered. But the answer is not necessarily to dramatically increase domestic fossil fuel production, which will have no short-term impact on prices and supply. We should redouble our efforts to move away from fossil fuels by dramatically increasing our green energy production. According to the EIA, the US Energy Information Administration, “the United States’ liquefied natural gas export capacity will be the largest in the world by the end of 2022”. (https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?) This is highlighted in the March 4, 2022 New York Times news bulletin, Climate Forward: What Putin’s war could mean for fossil fuels, by Somini Sengupta. buildings to reduce energy demand, simplify regulations to attract renewable energy investment, encourage more rooftop solar installations and produce more energy from biomass. The fact that the Russian-initiated war has accelerated serious consideration of fast-moving alternatives to fossil fuels is a silver lining to an otherwise horrific situation.
Sengupta also references a colleague’s article regarding the oil and gas industry jumping on fears of running out of reliable and affordable gas. (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/26/climate/ukraine-oil-lobby-biden-drilling.html) “It’s rich enough for the oil and gas industry to talk about the reliability of fossil fuels when a big storm hits, every time a war breaks out their reliability is called into question…”
The oil and gas lobby has shifted into high gear. Yesterday on Colorado Public Radio (CPR), we heard about a coalition called Coloradans for Energy Access. (https://www.cpr.org/2022/03/07/colorado-natural-gas-stoves-furnaces-corporate-lobbying/) The CP article states that “Colorado appears to be the latest state where the fossil fuel industry is seeking to portray a corporate influence campaign as a grassroots effort to support consumer access to natural gas.” the largest gas-only utility, is a leading force within the 23-member coalition. This story follows an editorial in the Colorado Sun. written by companies intent on planting the seed that switches from gas to electric in stoves and furnaces is bad for the economy, for low-income customers, and would raise prices. (https://coloradosun.com/2022/01/25/colorado-energy-natural-gas-electricity-opinion/) Even more disturbing is the quote in the CPR story about a webinar from a consulting firm “with a history of leading influencer campaigns for the oil and gas industry” that is “willing to write articles of similar opinions in the future”. (Full disclosure, my wife Laura Davis is the ghostwriter of this column, Together We Build.) It doesn’t matter that oil and gas has delivered record shareholder profits, as quoted by Heather Cox Richardson and reported by Tom Wilson of Financial Times: “Seven major oil companies, including BP, Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron, would return a near-record $38 billion to $41 billion to shareholders through share buybacks, after doling out $50 billion in dividends.
When the US Senate and White House were controlled by the GOP, senators had no problem adding $7.8 trillion to the deficit and giving the wealthiest Americans huge tax breaks, which ultimately proved once again that the trickle-down economy does not work. Now, under a Democratic administration, those same Republicans are blaming inflation on the current administration and demanding cuts to programs that help the average American citizen, in order to reduce a deficit they largely helped build. Meanwhile, taxpayer-funded fossil fuel subsidies continue to go to wealthy and powerful corporations that can return tens of billions of dollars to their shareholders in a single year.
Yes, we are going to see higher prices at the gas pump for a while. The global energy impact of Russia’s criminal invasion of the territory of its sovereign neighbor is a fact. How we react to this situation is critical. Are we going to develop alternatives to fossil fuels or invest in the oil and gas industry we need to panic? Here in the United States, we must use electric heat pumps to heat and cool our living spaces and commercial buildings, which make up a large portion of greenhouse gas emissions. We need to accelerate the construction of infrastructure to charge electric vehicles (EVs). Support for research, development and investment in innovation must be an absolute priority. Renovating and improving the insulation of leaky buildings will not only help those who use electric power entirely, but also the current majority who have gas furnaces. We must also remember that as we move to new, clean and reliable technologies, we must consider the education and training of those who must leave fossil fuel-based businesses. The much higher number of jobs that green energy provides compared to jobs in the fossil fuel industry is a proven fact. The historic number of jobs the current administration has added to the US economy is a proven fact. Don’t let dog whistlers lead you to believe otherwise.