Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry helped get the World Gas Conference (WGC) off to a rousing start on Tuesday, lauding technological innovation in the energy sector that would have been unheard of 30 years ago, the last time the conference was held in the United States.

Speaking between performances by the Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps and the Harlem Globetrotters, Perry said the Trump administration has been equally innovative in its first 18 months in office by embracing an all-of-the-above energy strategy.

“We do not discriminate against any of our fuels,” Perry said. “We’re committed to using every one of them, and maybe even developing some new ones. Our policy works for, not against, the many innovations that are helping produce more of every fuel.

“Rather than punish fuels that produce emissions through regulation, we seek to reduce emissions by innovation. And by advancing policies like tax and regulatory reform, the president is both the incentive and the freedom to innovate further.”

Perry told conference attendees that the United States would set a record 81.2 Bcf/d of dry natural gas production this year, citing a report by the Energy Information Administration. Equally exciting was the United States becoming a net exporter of natural gas for the first time in six years. American-sourced liquefied natural gas is now exported to 30 countries on five continents, he said.

“We’re sharing our energy bounty with the world, and in so doing we’re empowering our friends, allies and trading partners — both economically and energy-wise as well,” Perry said. “That gives us the opportunity to share not only our energy, but our energy success story — to encourage others to choose a similar path.

“This is not just about exporting our energy bounty, including our natural gas. It’s about exporting the technology, the know-how, that unleashed our bounty in the first place. That includes ways to make the energy sources cleaner.”

‘Stubborn Opposition’

But Perry conceded that there were vocal opponents to natural gas around the world.

“I wish I could tell you that the entire developed world is on board with our vision, but I cannot,” Perry said. “In some quarters, at home and abroad, there is still this stubborn opposition to natural gas and other fossil fuels. The opposition exists even as fossil fuels become cleaner, and low emission natural gas increases its share of total fossil production and use.”

Perry derided natural gas foes for “flatly” rejecting the Trump administration’s energy policies and hinted that opponents were out of touch with realities in the energy sector. As proof, he cited recent estimates that fossil fuels will still comprise more than 75% of the world’s energy uses by the year 2040.

But Perry also took a veiled swipe at those opposed to his controversial proposal last year to extend a lifeline to coal and nuclear power producers. His comments were remarkable because several trade associations representing the oil and gas industry are opposed to the idea, which may still become the administration’s policy.

“Clearly the answer is not to exclude, but to include,” Perry said. “The answer is not to exclude oil and gas and coal from the world’s energy mix.”

In his opening remarks, International Gas Union President David Carroll said the WGC was the largest natural gas industry event this year in the world.

“The pace of change does seem to be quickening these days, and it’s certainly been the case in the natural gas world,” Carroll said. Since the last WGC three years ago in Paris, the industry has gone from COP21, the Conference of Parties, “where gas was an afterthought, to an age of energy realism with promising outlooks for global market growth. The United States has gone from a net importer of gas to one of the top emerging exporters in the world, joining Qatar, Russia, Norway, Canada and Australia.”

Later in the opening ceremony, American Gas Association (AGA) CEO Dave McCurdy said “by safely producing, transporting and delivering natural gas, we are changing the world we live in. Choosing between affordability, efficiency and security is a relic of a bygone era.

“Now we have an opportunity to pair energy abundance with smart policies that continue to enhance our energy advantage. Natural gas is a foundation fuel for prosperity throughout the world.”

Puget South Energy CEO Kimberly Harris, who is chair of AGA’s board for 2018, added that her customers have told her they are concerned about the environment and climate change.

“They demand that we protect the environment, and we do,” Harris said. “We know that natural gas is key to lowering emissions. And frankly, by using natural gas and its supporting role for renewable energy, we know that we have driven energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to 25-year lows.

“I am here today to tell you that the natural gas companies of this country are committed to environmentally safe and sound practices.”