The newly appointed chief of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a message for anyone shopping for natural gas, oil or coal: Buy American.
Speaking at the opening day of CERAWeek by IHS Markit Monday, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist who took the helm of EPA in late February, said energy thirsty countries should look no further than the United States for their fossil fuel supplies.
“Here is our message to the free world: If you are looking to buy energy on the open market, look to the U.S. If you are looking for energy technology or technical assistance, look to the U.S. If you are looking for reliability, certainty, and security, look to the U.S.,” he told the crowd.
“What the United States offers the world in terms of energy is that our fossil fuels are extracted and produced in a more environmentally conscious manner than anywhere else in the world.”
Domestic natural gas is produced “in a much cleaner fashion than Russia,” while oil and coal are developed in a “more environmentally friendly manner than other nations.”
U.S. fossil fuels also are more reliable, Wheeler said. Since 2000, Russia has shut off natural gas supply via its pipeline system to and through Ukraine “multiple times.
“The United States doesn’t do that. We do what America always does abroad -- provide stability and security, especially in times of chaos. So not only are we providing certainty at home, we are providing it abroad as well.”
Those opposed to U.S. fossil fuel production “are actually taking the most environmentally preferable energy source off the table for the rest of the world. This is a disservice to human health and the environment.”
Wheeler promoted coal several times in the CERAWeek speech, noting that its use is rising worldwide, driven in large part by India, China, and other Asian nations.
“Rather than punishing the U.S. production of coal, we should level the playing field and encourage innovation and technology across the energy sector,” Wheeler told the crowd. There are a “few, loud voices...calling for the complete dismantling of U.S. fossil fuel production. Not only would this be dangerous for the economy and national security, but it would be devastating for public health, both here and abroad.”
The nation’s leading energy producing states also are driving a lot of the progress to ensure fossil fuel production is done safely, he said.
“At one point last year, the state of North Dakota was producing as much oil as the entire nation of Venezuela. At the same time, North Dakota boasts some of the lowest monitored ozone and particulate matter levels in the country -- and world.”
From 2005 to 2016, North Dakota oil production increased by more than 10-fold to 380 million b/d. “In that period, North Dakota had the greatest improvement of any state in economy wide energy efficiency,” Wheeler said.
While the United States is producing record amounts of oil and gas, the Trump administration is clearing the way for even more production, and it is giving states more authority.
“The states are the primary implementers and enforcers of many of our environmental laws and programs, and for good reason,” Wheeler said. “Those closest to the issue are often best suited to address it.”
For example, the administration’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule allows states to establish standards of performance that meet EPA’s emissions guidelines, giving the “states and the private sector the regulatory certainty they need to invest in new technologies and continue to provide affordable and reliable energy.”
When ACE is fully implemented, he claimed U.S. power sector carbon dioxide would fall 34% below 2005 levels.
EPA also has begun tracking how long it takes to receive oil and gas permits to ensure decisions are made within six months. “I am not suggesting that we approve all permits within a set amount of time. I am suggesting that we make a decision, yes or no, within a set amount of time,” he said.
Enforcement is the same. “We are changing our priorities to focus on real environmental problems, like nonattainment areas and water quality impairments, instead of targeting entire industries.”
Rather than yielding the stage to China or Russia, the Trump administration is “encouraging innovation across the energy sector so American energy can power more homes and business throughout the world. And we aren’t stopping there.”
Wheeler took a few minutes to criticize the Green New Deal, a controversial strategy by members of the Democratic party to combat climate change. According to a copy of a proposed House Resolution posted by NPR, the plan calls for the United States to transition all of its power generation to renewables over a 10-year period.
“Supporters of the Green New Deal, or plans like it, are not only oblivious to how far we’ve come, but also where we are headed,” Wheeler said. “A much better ‘deal’ would be to focus on improving power generation and maximizing the inherent value of our natural resources.”