Speakers see challenges in formulating ‘rational’ US energy policy

American Petroleum Institute Pres. Jack N. Gerard expressed hope that energy will provide a basis for bipartisan cooperation when the Trump administration and 115th Congress assume power in January 2017. But other speakers—representing the oil and gas, coal, nuclear, wind, and solar industries at a Nov. 18 discussion hosted by RealClear Politics and API—quickly identified areas where differences would need to be resolved.

As did Laborers International Union of North American (LIUNA) Pres. Terry O’Sullivan. “We believe we should have a rational energy policy and take extremes out of the equation. We’re not having a rational conversation,” he said. “Our members would rather go down the middle of the road and promote jobs in oil and gas, coal, nuclear, wind, and solar—truly all of the above.”

O’Sullivan noted that when LIUNA members hear about renewable energy, “they think it’s a downgraded job opportunity.” He said, “They prefer the oil, gas, coal, and nuclear industries where we’ve had a good working relationship for at least 60 years.” Speakers from the Solar Energy Industries Association and American Wind Energy Association countered that jobs are being created in those businesses more quickly than in the coal and nuclear power industries.

O’Sullivan said that he hopes the next Congress and administration address the need to reform the project-permitting process and increase transportation systems. Expressing a belief that the Keystone XL and Dakota Access crude oil pipelines could actually move ahead, he said he was encouraged by what President-elect Donald J. Trump has said about energy and infrastructure.

George Lowe, vice-president for government affairs at the American Gas Association, said that while the 2.6 million miles of US roads and bridges often get the most publicity, 2.5 million miles of natural gas pipelines also deserve attention.

Gas utilities have become much more efficient, serving 40% more customers in 2016 with the same amount of gas they used in the 1970s, Lowe said. “Our systems are tight, but we’re concerned with a lot of regulations out there and expect a lot of midnight plays on them,” he said.

Kevin Avery, federal government affairs manager in ConocoPhillips Co.’s Washington office, said that Trump’s election gives the US an opportunity to enact a comprehensive energy strategy in which oil and gas should play a major role. Policies should encourage production, development, and use of all forms of energy, he indicated.

Clean coal solutions also should be an essential part of a new national energy strategy, suggested Michael J. Flannigan, senior vice-president for government affairs at Peabody Energy Co. He endorsed the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative’s call to expand the credits under Section 45Q of the federal tax code and said that bipartisan solutions would make the best long-term energy and environmental policies possible (OGJ Online, Nov. 8, 2016).

“Ultimately, the very universality of oil and gas as a source of electricity, fuel, and feedstock for everyday products makes the national energy discussion more than a collection of abstract policy positions,” Gerard said.

“Our goal at API is to forge a common consensus that spurs our lawmakers to pursue energy policies that drive economic growth, create well-paying jobs, lower costs for consumers, protect the environment, increase American competitiveness, and provide to all of our allies a reliable partner which uses its considerable energy resources as a way to lift people up,” Gerard said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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