US Chamber refocuses, renames energy advocacy effort

On the 10th anniversary of the Institute for 21st Century Energy’s formation, the US Chamber of Commerce broadened its energy advocacy group’s focus and renamed it the Global Energy Institute. The redesignation reflects the country’s dramatic energy progress since 2007 and heralds a new emphasis on using its new position as the world’s top oil and gas producer to help other countries grow, speakers said during a June 20 event at the US Chamber’s headquarters.

“Some things have changed. Some haven’t. We still wake up each morning determined to build the country’s global energy presence,” observed Karen A. Harbert, president of the renamed institute. But others applauded the organization’s contributions in helping build a more robust domestic energy dialogue since it was founded.

IHS Markit Vice Chairman Daniel Yergin said that the Institute’s focus, analysis, and advocacy were vital during a period when the US underwent an energy renaissance. “When it was launched, the peak oil debate was strong. Even at that time, the shale revolution had begun, but the news hadn’t traveled far yet,” he recalled.

“That revolution changed the global energy outlook and was recognized sooner outside the US than in. Now, at a time when US influence in the world supposedly has declined, this is one area where it definitely has increased,” Yergin said.

Asked what challenges lie ahead, he said that a climate disclosure task force is scheduled to present its recommendations to G-20 countries next week, which could be well-intentioned but also create possible financial disclosure problems.

Infrastructure will be another, both physically and financially, as some groups try to curb energy transportation system growth so alternative and renewable technologies can move ahead, Yergin said. “In Europe, gas supplies will be less a political and more a commercial rivalry,” he suggested. “Russia will continue to supply a large share of Europe’s gas. The only question will be which pipeline it is shipped through.”

ConocoPhillips Chief Executive Ryan Lance, in a videotaped message, said that lifting the US crude oil export ban may have been the most important domestic energy accomplishment in the last 10 years. “It was a regulation that may have made sense 40 years ago but didn’t once our nation’s unconventional crude oil exploration and production took off,” he said.

Technology, innovation matter

Lance said that he anticipates technology and innovation, and how companies use more of their resources to drive them forward, will be increasingly important. “I expect the next 10 years to continue a lot of what began in the last 10 years,” he said. “This business of supplying affordable energy around the world will continue for a long time.”

Retired US Marine Corp. Gen. James L. Jones, who was the Institute’s first president before becoming President Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor, said that when it comes to making further domestic energy progress, the US will need to keep innovating, govern wisely, and continue to lead globally.

“If our country doesn’t continue to lean on energy, it will lose its global edge. Emphasizing our energy abundance as a unique national asset has mattered during the Institute’s first 10 years,” he maintained. “While policy wonks debate when we would run out of energy, entrepreneurs and engineers were finding new ways to tap that abundance.”

Jones said that the US now is in a position to help its allies and partners improve their own energy security. “Global energy security and international stability are very much at stake here. We face difficult and technical challenges, but overcoming challenges is what Americans do best,” he said.

Two Republican energy leaders from the 115th Congress said that the arrival of a more sympathetic administration suggests more progress can be made. House Energy and Commerce Committee Vice-Chairman Joe Barton (R-Tex.) said in a video message that he would like to see the US Department of Energy regain some environmental policymaking responsibility so the US Environmental Protection Agency can concentrate on enforcement.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.) noted that June 20 also was the 40th anniversary of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System going into operation. “Our task today is to refill TAPS, which is only one-quarter full today. That’s unacceptable when it’s close to so much potential oil production,” she said in a video message.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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