This is the second installment of Blowout: Inside America’s Energy Gamble is a multi-part collaboration between the Center for Public Integrity, The Texas Tribune, The Associated Press and Newsy.
How Washington unleashed fossil-fuel exports and sold out on climate
“…Long undervalued, natural gas was once burned off indiscriminately as an unwanted byproduct of oil drilling. But the fuel’s fortunes have changed. Cooled to minus 162 degrees Celsius, natural gas condenses into a liquid marketed as a clean alternative to coal. In just three years, the U.S. has emerged as a top producer of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, selling shiploads of the commodity to countries such as China, which are seeking low-carbon energy sources to combat climate change.
Natural gas, it turns out, isn’t so great for the climate, but that hasn’t stopped America from sending its fossil fuels abroad. Since Donald Trump took office in 2017, exports of LNG and crude oil have surged, rivaling the likes of Saudi Arabia and Russia. To achieve what it calls “energy dominance,” the Trump administration has taken its cues from an unlikely source: its predecessor…”
“…Compared to Trump, Obama is regarded as an environmental champion. But history paints a more complicated picture. As the young senator promised “change we can believe in” during the 2008 presidential campaign, change was also sweeping American oilfields. Advances in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — a way of recovering oil and gas from tight rock called shale — created a glut. Industry responded by pitching fossil-fuel exports as a “win-win” that would benefit consumers and enhance American power. Helping to deliver the message was a coalition of White House advisers: academics such as Columbia University’s Jason Bordoff, energy gurus such as Daniel Yergin, and national-security experts such as John Deutch — all with links to firms profiting from the boom…”
“…What’s good for corporate profits, however, may not be good for the planet. A growing body of research suggests natural gas isn’t the climate panacea many promised it would be, with mounting concerns over its main component: methane, a greenhouse gas roughly 86 times more potent in the short term than carbon dioxide. In the race for energy supremacy, the U.S. has become not only the world’s largest natural-gas producer but also a top exporter of oil — a fuel that remains among the most harmful for the climate and public health. As energy exports climb, so too does global consumption of fossil fuels, drawing billions in infrastructure investment that — some argue — tilts the world away from renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar…”
“…The Permian boom is expected to accelerate — worsening air quality and driving up water use in a region prone to drought. In June, IHS Markit predicted a ‘stunning’ bump in crude production by 2023, putting the basin above every member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries except Saudi Arabia. In a speech to the United Nations in September, Trump condemned the 15 OPEC members for ‘ripping off the rest of the world’ and said, ‘The United States stands ready to export our abundant, affordable supply of oil, clean coal and natural gas.’…”
“…During a July press conference in England with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump struck an upbeat tone. “We’ve become an oil exporter, which would not have happened under the past regime or a new regime if it weren’t us,” he declared.
In fact, America did begin exporting large volumes of crude oil under Obama. He approved a last-minute budget deal to avert a government shutdown in 2015, which also removed restrictions on crude sales for the first time in 40 years. However, the country still imports more crude than it exports — a trend experts believe will continue.
Congress had enacted restrictions on crude exports as a conservation measure in 1975 following the Arab Oil Embargo, which caused fuel shortages that led to skyrocketing prices at the pump. Under the ban, companies had to refine crude oil into petroleum products such as gasoline or secure special exemptions from the Commerce Department to sell the resource abroad.
As was the case with LNG, interest in crude-oil exports soared when fracking took off. With oil production rising steadily in 2012, American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard was among the first to suggest the ban be thrown out. Shortly thereafter, crude-oil exports became a priority for the GOP as well as some Democrats in drilling states…”
Read more at Blowout Part 2
Learn why oil companies have been in a pipeline building frenzy – Having a huge amount of infrastructure in place gives them more “ammunition” – reasons to keep drilling. And endangering our health, along with the health of the planet.
Photo credit: screenshot of Port of Corpus Christi from YouTube