COP28: Energy Transition Without Oil and Gas Industry Doomed to Fail

Environmental activists continue to try to set the narrative that the upcoming COP28 summit and push for a clean energy transition won’t be successful because of influence from the oil and gas industry. But the truth is the opposite: an energy transition without the oil and gas industry is what is doomed to fail.

In a recent interview with Financial Times, former Vice President Al Gore called for the immediate end of fossil fuels:

“Language that just says we should eventually decrease our fossil fuel consumption, and slowly phase down fossil fuels, that’s woefully insufficient.”

This call – and others like it as EID has previously discussed – ignores the dangerous reality that a total phase out of fossil fuels would have a catastrophic impact on international energy security, the global economy, and local communities. A recent Washington Post analysis confirms this:

“If fossil fuel production were stopped tomorrow, the world would quickly grind to a halt.” (emphasis added)

The oil and natural gas industry keeps the lights on, enables transportation, facilitates agriculture and food production, and creates the products that are the building blocks of society.

The Energy Information Administration recently reported that natural gas remained the top energy source nationwide, accounting for a larger share of electricity compared to the previous year. Cutting that source would immediately leave millions of families without heat for the winter, hospitals without the capacity to run, or emergency services unable to function.

Additionally, even in the recently released International Energy Agency’s Net Zero Roadmap – which makes dubious claims about “peak” oil while contradicting its own narrative – the report confirms that oil and natural gas infrastructure will be crucial for global energy security for years to come:

“…elements of fossil fuel infrastructure continue to contribute to the secure operation of the overall energy system for many years to come…Unplanned or premature retirement of this infrastructure could have negative consequences for energy security.” (emphasis added)

Renewables Depend on Fossil Fuels

In the same interview, Gore makes the case that fossil fuels aren’t needed because of available renewable alternatives, though he fails to mention that oil and gas is necessary for the build out of these renewable energy systems:

“We have a right to demand that they stop blocking and fighting against the efforts of others to solve this crisis…We are now seeing in my country the building of all of these solar, and wind, and EV, and battery facilities…”

But as Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Willie L. Phillip has said:

“There will be no transition of our energy system without natural gas.”

Renewable energy is dependent on fossil fuels – not only for manufacturing, materials, and transportation – but because of oil and gas’s ability to provide firm, baseload power to balance renewable’s intermittency.

Vice President of Security and Preparedness for the Edison Electric Institute, Scott Aaronson, underscored this in Politico:

That means fossil fuels have shown their worth in balancing wind and solar at times when breezes don’t blow and the sun is not shining…It sounds like a talking point when someone says ‘all of the above,’ but we genuinely benefit from an ‘all of the above’ strategy. Each resource has its benefits and drawbacks … but taken holistically, they make for a much more resilient grid.” (emphasis added)

Eliminating fossil fuels means that you also eliminate the ability to even have clean energy alternatives.

Kota Shizawa, visiting fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, commented on this need for fossil fuels now and into the future:

“Fossil fuels are a critical, practical bridge toward a decarbonized future until nonfossil energy sources become competitive and reliable enough to replace them. The priority should therefore be the development and dissemination of technologies to process fossil fuels as cleanly as possible.”

The good news is that the industry is already doing this.

Industry Making Huge Leaps in Emissions Reductions

The oil and gas industry continues to make tremendous leaps in proactively reducing greenhouse gas emissions through innovative technologies and operations.

The 2023 Environmental Partnership report details these efforts, with 70 percent of U.S. onshore oil and gas operations making progress to reduce flaring, eliminate leaks, replace pneumatic controllers and more.

The industry is also actively pursuing efforts like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) that would help to further reduce emissions, especially in hard-to-abate sectors like manufacturing, shipping and transportation with proven, safe technology. At-scale deployment of CCS would also contribute to job creation and financial growth through positive, direct, and indirect economic impacts in low-income communities and surrounding areas.

However, the Biden administration is obstructing this important progress through bureaucratic red tape.

Only two states have been granted primacy over Class VI injection wells, or wells that are used to store carbon dioxide underground – both under the prior administration – and the EPA currently has more than 70 permit applications marked as “pending” for Class VI wells. Zero Class VI permits have been issued since passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, despite the law incentivizing increased investment in CCS and bipartisan support.

This is a prime example of the industry actively trying to be a partner in the clean energy transition but getting stonewalled, to the detriment of environmental progress.

Additionally, the switch to natural gas has been responsible for massive decreases in emissions. In the past three years alone, increased natural gas usage in power generation has been responsible for a total of 1.615 billion metric tons of CO2 reductions, even as consumption of natural gas has risen.

Removing natural gas – the resource that has actually delivered the greatest greening of the American economy in modern history – is foolish and should be a non-starter for any serious climate discussion.

Bottom Line: Instead of inflammatory rhetoric that demonizes fossil fuels, good-faith dialogue with all parties is needed to ensure progress at COP28. The U.S. oil and gas industry continues to meet global demand, ensure crucial energy security, and serve as a willing partner for the energy landscape now and for the future.

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