We are living at a time when our ability to provide our own domestic energy supply has literally put us in the position of energy dominance, if not outright independence. Not only are we now producing enough oil and gas for our own domestic needs, but we have enough excess production to export around the world and actually change the geopolitical calculus — to our advantage. As has been stated repeatedly in this column, in this magazine, by this industry, by the mainstream media (at least by those willing to tell it straight) and by countless people who have a reason to have an informed opinion, this current scenario was not anticipated by any of the “smart” people 20 years ago and could never have been scripted by level-headed members of the global intelligentsia.
But, despite the obvious energy manna that has once again been handed to the U.S., there still is a sizable population — which is seemingly only growing in number, volume and aggressiveness — that not only is choosing to reject all of this for themselves, but is also wanting to deny everyone else the opportunity of our current advantage. In short, they want everyone to suffer the consequences of their ill-informed choices. They want the predictions of computer modeling regarding climate catastrophe over the current realities of economic and energy independence and geopolitical advantage. And they want the “what-ifs” — from those whose past “what-ifs” have just been “whiffs” — over the “what is” reality that is lifting third-world countries out of a past of perpetual poverty into a new opportunity, which comes only from dependable energy supplies for electricity, fuel and the fundamental components needed to join the rest of the 21st century world. With our nation’s long history of being logical, rational, practical, business-minded and bottom-line oriented, how is it possible that there is even a serious debate on this issue?
Some basic reminders for the energy-illiterate: fossil fuels comprised 88% of all global energy sources in 1988. After 30 years of a steadily increasing drumbeat of global warming, then climate change and then extreme weather, that share has fallen all the way to 85% today — in other words, not at all. On the other hand, the share of non-carbon-based fuels (renewables and nuclear) as a global energy source has grown from 11% in 1988 to 15% today. What basic conclusion can we draw from those statistics? Fossil fuels — especially oil and gas — aren’t disappearing from the energy menu anytime soon; and renewables aren’t going to dethrone fossil fuels anytime soon. One other statistic: During that same 30-year period, fossil-fuel usage around the world increased 66%. Just because American protesters — living comfortably in their fossil-fueled environment — want to “keep it in the ground,” those in poverty around the world looking for any way to improve their lives are more likely to respond with “keep it to yourself.”
Nevertheless, the swarm of candidates currently vying for the Democrat nomination to face President Trump in 2020 are falling over themselves to make sweeping statements condemning oil and gas, panicking over climate catastrophe and swearing allegiance to the Green New Deal. They are demonstrating their sincerity by taking the “No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge,” which states that they will refuse any campaign donations from leaders in the oil, gas and coal industries. Why stop there? Why not also swear to stop using any vehicle, equipment or product dependent on oil and gas? Oh, that’s right — you need oil and gas to be able to preach your message to get rid of oil and gas. That kind of logic should immediately scare or at least amuse any prospective voter.
Of course, while these personalities are making their respective “Spartacus-moment” statements on the national stage, individual states are also trying to demonstrate their green bona fides. New York, Vermont and Maryland have already banned hydraulic fracturing (way to be brave, Vermont — home to no oil and gas anyway); joining them now are Oregon and Washington. And Colorado just passed a referendum increasing the burden of future oil and gas exploration and production in that state. California’s new Governor, Newsom, is said to be considering his own effort to ban any new drilling.
A permanent, roving band of professional protesters has relentlessly stalked every new oil and gas pipeline project. The Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines were just the beginning. Despite being awash in Marcellus shale gas in the northeast, New York has not only banned fracking, but these protesters have also made it hard for any new pipelines carrying this gas to New York customers to be built. In fact, Con Edison recently had to impose a moratorium on taking any new natural gas customers. That, in turn, has resulted in several new commercial projects planning on using natural gas to be put on hold. Somebody, somewhere, I guess, considers that a victory.
Opponents of oil and gas usually argue that wind and solar are their replacement energy sources of choice. In previous columns, I have repeatedly pointed out the unquestionable inferiority of wind and solar as “replacement” energy sources for oil and gas, in terms of abundance, availability, cost and density. Wind and solar, however, are perfectly fine as “supplemental” energy sources to oil and gas.
Ironically, another obstacle that is starting to increase in frequency for wind and solar is their own version of “nimby” (i.e., not in my back yard). More and more communities are rising up to protest the sheer size and scope of these projects, which necessarily have to be vast to be able to support utility-scale output. It typically takes 700 times more land to produce the same amount of energy from wind as a site that produces natural gas. Communities in New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, Iowa, New Hampshire, Indiana, California and even Texas are starting to enact local bans against wind and solar farms for that simple reason. No energy source is without criticism — so how about just going with the most efficient and effective?
American politics can be strange and unpredictable, but going into the 2020 presidential campaign, it seems clear that the Democrat nominee — whoever it might be— will be embracing the irrational, impractical economy-devastating position of the Green New Deal. President Trump, on the other hand, has made it very clear that he is on the side of American energy dominance. Let’s hope that there are still enough voters who understand the importance of being able to turn on a light.
About the author: Bill Keffer is a contributing columnist to SHALE Oil & Gas Business Magazine. He teaches at the Texas Tech University School of Law and continues to consult. He also served in the Texas Legislature from 2003 to 2007.