Hearing: Energy Industry Should Be Celebrated, Not Demonized for Economy and Environmental Benefits
As activists’ efforts to demonize the oil and natural gas industry largely faltered during a House Oversight subcommittee meeting this week, lawmakers and witnesses used the opportunity to highlight the important role America’s energy companies play in promoting economic growth and environmental progress at home and abroad.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), ranking member on the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, opened the hearing on industry efforts “to suppress the truth about climate change” by calling out the event’s hypocrisy and highlighting the importance of natural gas throughout the country:
“Demonizing companies and the Americans they employ for political gain does not seem to be a productive use of our time, while we sit here in an air conditioned hearing room, powered by natural gas from the Capitol power plant… Natural gas being the life blood of what we’re seeing in the renaissance of energy in the United States of America. Creating jobs, and wealth, and opportunity, and developing and improving lives around the world.”
American natural gas can increase access to energy and improve quality of life.
While many on the panel questioned whether a climate-related hearing was appropriate for the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee, others took the opportunity to point out the role that American energy can play in lifting people out of poverty here and abroad. As expert witness Mandy Gunasekara, a former senior Environmental Protection Agency official and environmental lawyer, explained:
“Fossil-based energy enables the modern economy and with the modern economy you have access to life saving healthcare, refrigeration for food, all sorts of technologies that are based on fossil-based energy systems and you can change people lives. There are a billion people today that don’t have access to electricity and if we were to give them a reliable source of electricity through the most efficient technologies that we use here today with some of these countries overseas, you’d not only be lifting up the standard of living in areas where they are living in extreme poverty, but you’d also be extending their life expectancy and they’d be enjoying the benefits of a modern economy that we frankly take for granted in this country.”
In areas with limited or no access to energy, 90 percent of a household’s energy consumption is often derived from burning firewood, charcoal, or biomass in order to cook. These methods are producing greater emissions and have a negative effect on air quality and human health. Exported U.S. LNG has the opportunity to not only improve living conditions, but help the world continue to transition to clean natural gas.
2020 Candidates Ignore Benefits of Natural Gas
Despite these and other benefits, many 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have expressed their desire to ban fracking. The Roy emphasized the devastating effect such a move would have on the economy:
“Let’s talk about the massive violation of civil liberties that will occur if we do as Elizabeth Warren has said, ban fracking. Let’s crush the American economy and crush the jobs in not only Texas, but around the United States, and ban fracking in a fit of hysteria—undermining the very civil liberties of the Americans that depend on that affordable and available abundant energy.”
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that the oil and natural gas industry alone contributed $218.8 billion to the economy in 2018. Record-breaking production is helping to fill state coffers across the country, providing millions for education, infrastructure, hospitals, and other public institutions.
As EID has explained, a moratorium would also be antithetical to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. When asked about the implications of a fracking ban in the United States, Gunasekara pointed to both geopolitical and environmental consequences:
“There’s a recent report from the National Energy Technology Lab that did an assessment of lifecycle emissions affiliated with U.S. LNG sent to European and Asian markets compared to gas from Russia. U.S. LNG shipped to European markets has 41 percent less lifecycle emissions than if those same counties were to receive natural gas from another predominant producer like Russia.”
Natural gas has already been credited with reducing 50 percent more U.S. air emissions than wind or solar combined since 2005. In addition, the use of natural gas for electricity generation could prevent an additional 1.2 billion tons of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere, according to a study this year by the International Energy Agency.
Despite attempts to go after the energy industry for fueling our everyday lives, the hearing emphasized the importance of the American energy industry. As Gunasekara said:
“Our energy industry and the men and women who work in it are to be celebrated, not demonized. This country’s ability to harness our vast energy resources in a responsible and efficient manner has changed millions of lives for the better. It is why life expectancy and economic growth, both important indicators of human flourishing, have significantly improved. Advancements in fossil-based energy and the development of modern economies has provided access to life-saving technologies like heat during winter, water treatment, medicine and refrigeration.”