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API CEO Touts Economic, Environmental Success of NatGas Growth in U.S.

Emphasizing the environmental benefits of increased reliance on natural gas, American Petroleum Institute (API) CEO Jack Gerard outlined the trade association’s apparent lobbying strategy amid growing concern about the climate impacts of fossil fuels.

During a speech at API’s The State of American Energy 2016 event in Washington, DC, Tuesday, Gerard said the group’s focus in the year ahead will center around promoting “the U.S. model.” He described this as a focus on using science and data to achieve realistic policy solutions that allow the fossil fuel industry to compete on a level energy playing field, keeping energy costs down and finding market-based solutions to reduce environmental impacts.

Gerard was quick to point out the growth of natural gas in power generation and the carbon emissions reductions that have come with the fuel’s more prominent role in the U.S. energy landscape. He referenced Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) findings that 2013 U.S. greenhouse gas emissions were 9% below 2005 levels “even as population, energy use and gross domestic product” all increased.

Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry reduced its own emissions by 55.5 million metric tons of CO2 in 2014, Gerard said, citing a study by T2 Associates. The industry also invested $90 billion in zero- and low-carbon emitting technologies between 2000 and 2014, rivaling the federal government’s $110.3 billion investment during that period, he said.

“Fortunately, we know how to bring about America’s brighter energy future, which means lower costs for American consumers, a cleaner environment and American energy leadership, because it is” what “we have in the United States,” Gerard said. “We call it the U.S. model. Simultaneously, the United States is leading the world in energy production, we have one of the strongest western economies and are leading the world in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a trifecta of success unmatched anywhere in the world.”

Calling for the federal government to avoid interfering in the marketplace, Gerard praised Congress’s recent legislation lifting the crude oil export ban and took aim at the Obama administration’s regulatory attitude toward the industry. Describing it as “a regulation-based solution for a problem that is already being successfully addressed in the marketplace,” he criticized the EPA’s Clean Power Plan for glossing over the role of natural gas in reducing carbon emissions, and he questioned the president’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline.

“As the president’s last full year in office begins, we hope that he will take note of and help foster” the U.S. model. “We hope that he’ll note that the already heavy regulatory burden -- almost 100 pending regulations and counting -- upon the oil and natural gas industry could hinder, rather than advance, what he hopes to be one of his administration’s defining legacies -- environmental improvement,” Gerard said.

Gerard was sharply critical of what he characterized as a naive political ideology opposed to any burning of fossil fuels. He cited Energy Information Administration estimates that “even under the best-case scenario for alternative fuel use” fossil fuels would still account for nearly 80% of U.S. energy consumption.

“Still, and in spite of all these facts and a wealth of other evidence to the contrary, there are an ardent few who continue to believe that keeping our nation’s abundant energy resources in the ground is a credible and viable national energy strategy,” Gerard said.

He went on to discuss how “anti-fossil fuel advocates” have become “emboldened by their ability to stop” Keystone XL and “set their sights on all energy infrastructure projects.” This “anti-fossil fuel ideology” is discouraging “American companies from investing in tomorrow’s pipelines, marine terminals and other needed energy infrastructure projects,” he said.

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