BY DINO GRANDONI washingtonpost.com
The oil and gas industry is fighting back: It's throwing in big bucks to counter attacks from Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren that it's contributing to climate change.
The American Petroleum Institute is planning to spend upward of $1 million through 2020 on a new advertising campaign arguing that it's actually part of the solution when it comes to slowing the rise of global temperatures.
The main lobbying arm of the oil and gas industry will pour money into broadcast televisions spots, social media posts, billboards and airport placards promoting natural gas as a reason the United States is reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.
The ad blitz comes as Sanders (I-Vt.), Warren (D-Mass.) and a number of other presidential candidate have promised to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, should they win the White House. And API's message runs up against the advice of thousands of scientists who say we must keep the remaining oil and gas in the ground as the only way to forestall dangerous warming of the Earth.
A ban on fracking would be a major blow to the industry — one it is increasingly seeking to avoid amid a presidential campaign where polling shows voters are more concerned than ever about climate change. API warns that banning fracking would constitute economic self-sabotage for the United States.
“Here's a glimpse of that vision... In the short run, a fracking ban would quickly invite a global recession,” API chief Mike Sommers told members of Congress, Trump administration officials, oil executives and labor union leaders gathered for the group's annual January luncheon in Washington on Tuesday. “You don't abolish the most dynamic asset of the world's leading energy producer without severe consequences.”
But outside economists say that and other warnings API made Tuesday are overblown.
"I think is highly unlikely that a fracking ban in the US alone would lead to a global recession, but it could slow economic growth in the short term in the U.S. unless it is accompanied by other policies that spur growth," said Kenneth Gillingham, an economics professor at Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
API points to how the gush of cheap gas from fracking over the past decade has helped shutter hundreds of coal-fired power plants as they are replaced by less-polluting, gas-fired ones. Fracking, along with horizontal drilling, are "as important as the invention the iPhone,” Sommers said.
“We have to serve the vast and growing demand for affordable energy and we have to accelerate progress on the serious challenge of climate change,” added Sommers, who once served as chief of staff for former House speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).
The API ad campaign is running nationwide, with an emphasis on oil- and gas-producing states such as New Mexico and Pennsylvania, and swing congressional districts in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and elsewhere. The lobbying group produced seven videos featuring residents from seven states it is targeting.
And in what is likely a bid to emphasize the low emissions of gas compared to coal, the ads referred to the industry as “gas and oil” rather than oil and gas.
“This is natural gas and oil,” the ads read. “This is energy progress.”
When it comes to the new marketing initiative, longtime environmental critics of the oil and gas industry see it as nothing more than an "embarrassing attempt at rebranding [that] doesn't change anything about the dirty fossil fuels API is pushing," according to Kelly Martin, director of the Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign at the Sierra Club, which promotes renewable energy sources as a solution to climate change.
Speaking to reporters before the luncheon, Sommers demurred when asked whether API would support specific emissions-reduction targets. But API did release a report in conjunction with the luncheon with hard-number claims on the economic effects of a ban on fracking. The group is saying a ban could lead to as many as 7.3 million fewer jobs.
Yet Jason Furman, a professor of economic policy at Harvard, said that although a ban on fracking would hurt economic growth, the hit would not be nearly enough to make that many people lose their jobs.
“It's a ludicrous exaggeration of what would be a meaningful hit to the U.S. economy,” Furman said, noting that the U.S. economy shed nearly 9 million jobs economywide during the Great Recession.
He added that “it would be very hard to go from this to a global recession.”
Gillingham, the Yale economist, agreed by noting that the total employment in oil and gas extraction as of last November was 164,800 — an order of magnitude lower than the job losses API projected.
"I am very skeptical of those jobs numbers," he said for API's claim.
Independent physicist John Droz, Jr. alerted me to the website of Deep Green Resistance (DGR), an international environmental organization that calls for the total destruction of what it refers to as the “global industrial economy,” a.k.a. capitalism. Given the group’s hard-left credentials, its call for dismantling capitalism throughout the world is not surprising.
What is surprising is that in an unusual show of progressive candor, Deep Green Resistance openly acknowledges what skeptical scientists have been saying for more than two decades: that renewable energy is a government-backed hoax that enriches big corporations -- and green energy investors like Al Gore -- at the expense of taxpayers and the environment. If you find that admission hard to believe, please keep reading. The questions and answers below are verbatim from the FAQ page on the organization’s website.
Will green technology save the planet?
No. Wind turbines, solar PV panels, and the grid itself are all manufactured using cheap energy from fossil fuels. When fossil fuel costs begin to rise such highly manufactured items will simply cease to be feasible.
Solar panels and wind turbines aren’t made out of nothing. They are made out of metals, plastics, and chemicals. These products have been mined out of the ground, transported, processed, manufactured. Each stage leaves behind a trail of devastation: habitat destruction, water contamination, colonization, toxic waste, slave labor, greenhouse gas emissions, wars, and corporate profits.
The basic ingredients for renewables are the same materials that are ubiquitous in industrial products, like cement and aluminum. No one is going to make cement in any quantity without using the energy of fossil fuels. And aluminum? The mining itself is a destructive and toxic nightmare from which riparian communities will not awaken in anything but geologic time.
From beginning to end, so called “renewable energy” and other “green technologies” lead to the destruction of the planet. These technologies are rooted in the same industrial extraction and production processes that have rampaged across the world for the last 150 years.
We are not concerned with slightly reducing the harm caused by industrial civilization; we are interested in stopping that harm completely. Doing so will require dismantling the global industrial economy, which will render impossible the creation of these technologies.
Will renewable energy save the economy?
Renewable energy technologies rely heavily on government subsidies, taken from taxpayers and given directly to large corporations like General Electric, BP, Samsung, and Mitsubishi. While the scheme pads their bottom lines, it doesn't help the rest of us.
Further, this is the wrong question to ask. The industrial capitalist economy is dispossessing and impoverishing billions of humans and killing the living world. Renewable energy depends on centralized capital and power imbalance. We don't benefit from saving that system.
Instead of advocating for more industrial technology, we need to move to local economies based on community decision-making and what our local landbases can provide sustainably. And we need to stop the global economy on which renewable energy depends.
“Stopping the global economy” means destroying the capitalist system that created here in America the most widespread prosperity the world has ever known. That a progressive eco-group would admit that the true agenda behind the push for renewable energy has nothing to do with “saving the planet” and everything to do with destroying capitalism is quite remarkable. To reinforce its position that renewable energy is a hoax, DGR’s website has a cartoon that shows dollar bills being sucked from a wind turbine directly into the pocket of a fat cat investor in subsidized green energy projects.
The Elmer Gantry of renewable energy
Few insiders have profited more from taxpayer-backed renewable energy projects than Al Gore. When he left the vice presidency in 2001, his net worth was estimated at $1 million to $2 million. Since then, his wealth has skyrocketed to $300 million, and if the climate change legislation he advocates is enacted, the former vice president stands to become a billionaire. Much of his enviable fortune has come from being an inside investor in government-backed renewable energy projects, many of which went belly up after the insiders made off with millions, leaving hard-working U.S. taxpayers stuck with the bill.
Like all wealthy eco-preachers, the Elmer Gantry of renewable energy uses his immense wealth to indulge in lavish living. When asked by Rep. Marsha Blackburn during his 2009 testimony before Congress whether he personally profits from his advocacy of global warming, Pastor Al professed a vow of poverty, and if you’ve never seen video of the tense encounter, you don’t want to miss it: “Every penny I have made I have put into a non-profit deal, the Alliance for Climate Protection, to spread awareness of why we have to take on this challenge. And Congresswoman, if you believe the reason I have been working on this issue for 30 years is out of greed, you do not know me.”
Turned out Rep. Blackburn knows him quite well. As greedy owner of a gargantuan green energy fortune, Pastor Al looked her squarely in the eye and denied making even a penny of profit. If every penny he makes goes into a non-profit deal, how did he end up with $300 million? The same way his alter ego pilfered money from the Lord: by concealing his true stripes.
As the social Utopians at Deep Green Resistance openly acknowledge, the push for a “green economy” is a scam that enriches big corporations and fat-cat investors like Al Gore. Shortly after teen climate activist Greta Thunberg gave an emotion-charged speech at the UN last September, I wrote about the renewable energy hoax in The Cynical Plot behind Global Warming Hysteria. If not for a totally corrupt western media, two things would have happened years ago: man-made global warming theory would have been blown out of the water, and Pastor Al would have been called out as the self-righteous hypocrite he is.
An electrical engineering graduate of Georgia Tech and now retired, John Eidson is a freelance writer in Atlanta.
It is always a good idea when posting an article to provide attribution.
Skip, like your frequent sources such as the New York Times, Time Magazine, CNN and Washington Post aren't biased.
John Stossel you tube
The reason I always include attribution is so that members know the source of the article. I leave it up to them to decide for themselves whether the source is trustworthy. IMO, the ones you list and the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal for example are reputable sources. All traditional media companies include opinion pieces that take opposing sides of issues they feel are important. When they do they make a point to make it plain that the author does not speak for the publication. Traditional media outlets are not perfect and occasionally make mistakes. Where the difference comes in between them and far right outrage/falsehood sites is their commitment to admit those mistakes and publish corrections.
I'm really glad you are devoting some time to this. Our nation needs reasonable people in the energy industry to help debate these issues. You have a ton of respectability (and I've never seen you "troll" anything on GHS). But, it's not an easy position to be in, or an easy issue to advocate for. It's still badly needed.
HANG, still Hopeful About Natural Gas
Skip, when you talk climate change as though anthropomorphic climate change is a fact, you are (perhaps unknowingly) parroting politicians and environmental activists, not real climate scientists. Do some research on this subject and you will find that the ones that are called "climate change deniers" have a much better understanding of climate change and they are neither fools and they are certainly not making huge amounts of money propagating massive distortions of the facts. I suggest that you look for videos by Professors Richard Lindzen and William Happer to start. Dr. Richard Lindzen is Professor Emeritus from MIT and has been studying and writing papers about climate since 1961 and is perhaps one of the most knowledgeable in his field. Dr. William Happer is a physicist who is extremely knowledgeable on radiation through the atmosphere in particular.
One interesting thing that I have learned in the past couple of years is that far from being a hazard to the earth, carbon dioxide is necessary for plant life and even human life. The earth is in a carbon dioxide drought, even at almost 400 ppm. But it has been seen from satellite imaging that the earth has been "greening" in direct correspondence to the increase in carbon dioxide. In fact, until the atmospheric level of CO2 reaches 1,000 to 1,500 ppm, plants will still be starving for CO2. Remember that the carbon that plants use as a major building block of plant tissue ONLY comes from the atmosphere. As for humans, this may seem counter intuitive, but we would stop breathing and die were it not for carbon dioxide.
As far as climate change goes, carbon dioxide may, I say may, contribute only as much as about 2% of the temperature increase if there is any. And it is shown that temperture increase, if any, is logarithmic with CO2 increase. If suppose the temperature increase from CO2 was 1 degree from 200 to 400 ppm, then the concentration would have to increase from 400 to 800 ppm to get an additional degree of warming and would have to increase from 800 to 1600 ppm to get one more degree of warming.
What I have related above is just a small amount of the real information concerning climate change that is readily available. And this real information is coming from real scientists, not know nothings like AOC or Al Gore or even the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is comprised of politicians, not scientists).
I should further point out that most of the "research" on climate change is funded through government, yes, politicians, so if a scientist tries to get a grant to do research that goes counter to the prevailing theory that there is a real problem with climate change and that it is caused by the activities of people, then, guess what? They just do not get funded. So, the real science that follows where the evidence leads gets done by scientists that do their research without government funding.
Yes, there can be real improvements in the O&G industry, but the improvements should be for all of us. And the only way this can be is if the improvements are based on good science. Good science and good scientists discovers the truth.
Carl, you need a little help with your climate understanding and your cut-and-paste abilities. Your disagreement is so noted.
So help him, professor.
I'm afraid that would be a waste of both our time. Whenever you read of how CO2 is essential for plants and increases in CO2 would have salutary effects for agriculture, it is an indication of truthful facts being used with the intent to obscure the real threat. Avoid the unavoidable science.
This discussion was meant as an invitation to suggest/debate a middle of the road approach to decreasing GHS emissions without adversely impacting American consumers. All we seem to hear are the extremes of both sides of the issue. Both of which are example of the extreme partisan world we live in. And neither of which represent a rational path forward.
The fastest way to cut carbon emissions is a ‘fee’ and a dividend, top leaders say
By Steven Mufson Feb. 13, 2020 at 9:30 a.m. CST washingtonpost.com
A group of prominent politicians, economists and corporate executives is renewing its push in Congress for a plan that would tax carbon and refund all the money to Americans in payments of approximately $2,000 a year for a family of four.
As congressional Republicans work to come up with a response to climate change, and Democratic primary voters are flagging climate as a top issue, the Climate Leadership Council believes it has an opportunity to win supporters from both sides of the aisle by seeking deep emissions cuts, relying on markets and eschewing regulations.
“There is wide agreement among economists that this is the most effective and market-friendly way to reduce carbon emissions,” former Federal Reserve chair Janet L. Yellen said in an interview.
Carbon dioxide emissions represent a large percentage of the greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, warming the planet.
Leaders of the council met over dinner Monday with nine of the 12 members of the Senate Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group of senators trying to come up with policies that will curb climate change, long a divisive issue in Congress.
Sens. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.), leaders of the caucus, have not endorsed any particular plan and issued a statement Wednesday saying, “We look forward to continuing these conversations with a wide range of stakeholders and perspectives from across the country.”
The council’s proposal is ambitious. It would impose what it calls a “carbon fee,” which in 2021 would be set at $43 a ton and rise every year by 5 percentage points above inflation. That would double the price of a ton of coal, tax natural gas at $2.28 per thousand cubic feet and raise gasoline pump prices by about 38 cents a gallon.
While the fees collected would go back to American families to help offset higher energy costs, they also would act as an incentive for individuals and companies to slash carbon emissions to a level lower than what President Barack Obama’s administration pledged under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, the council says. U.S. emissions would fall to around 32 percent below 2005 levels and continue to generate reductions.
The plan also calls for sweeping away a large number of regulations now governing emissions because the carbon “fee” would make such restrictions unnecessary, the council said.
Several climate-related proposals are being discussed in Congress. On Tuesday, Sen. Thomas R. Carper (Del.), the top Democrat member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, introduced the Clean Economy Act that would aim to achieve a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050. It would leave the setting of interim targets to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Nathaniel Keohane, senior vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund, said that the carbon fee-and-dividend plan needed sponsors in Congress. “The real test will be: Do they get a bill from someone with a voting card,” he said. “Do you have support on the Hill?”
Keohane said he liked many aspects of the proposal, such as a part mandating that the carbon fee would be increased even faster if it was failing to get enough greenhouse gas reductions. But Keohane said that EDF would still favor “an enforceable limit” set by regulation to make certain the targets are achieved.
Led by President Ronald Reagan’s treasury secretary James A. Baker and secretary of state George P. Shultz, the Climate Leadership Council proposal has plenty of high-powered backing. More than 3,500 U.S. economists, four former Federal Reserve chairs, 27 Nobel laureates in economics, and 15 of 16 living former chairs of the presidential Council of Economic Advisers. (Joseph Stiglitz, who was head of President Bill Clinton’s council, is the exception.)
More than a dozen senior executives from companies that support the tax-and-dividend plan recently joined the council and attended the dinner with the senators. The corporate officials included the chief operating officer of ConocoPhillips, the chief executive of utility giant Exelon and the chief executive of Procter & Gamble’s largest division.
Other recent additions include Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and one of the architects of the Paris climate agreement; Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase; retired general Jim Mattis, Trump’s former defense secretary; and Ernest Moniz, Obama’s energy secretary and now a professor at MIT.
“We will never solve our climate problem unless environmentalists work together with Big Business and Big Oil,” Figueres said in a prepared statement.
But the carbon-fee-and-dividend plan has not caught fire in Congress, whose members are skittish about potential blowback from voters opposed to new taxes.
Rep. Garret Graves (La.), the top Republican on the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, said, “Democrats like sticks, and we like carrots.”
Graves added later in a statement Wednesday night that “House Republicans stand united against carbon taxes and burdensome regulations.”
Baker, in a prepared statement, said that Democrats would get a carbon fee, and Republicans would “get rid” of “growth-limiting regulations that stifle our economy.”
Most taxes on consumption are regressive, falling more heavily on the nation’s lowest-income earners. Dividends change that distribution. Baker said that “70 percent of American families would get more money from the carbon dividend than they would pay in higher energy costs.”
Yellen said that “a core feature of this plan is protecting American households, particularly those most vulnerable to damage.” She said, “The most vulnerable lower-income groups do the best in terms of coming out ahead.”
The council’s leaders say that the fee-and-dividend plan also addresses other economic problems. Many lawmakers support big spending programs for research and development, and many, including supporters of the Green New Deal, say that deficit spending is justified and should be seen as investments.
“We know that innovation and long-term investments are going to be critically important to solve this problem,” Yellen said. “This is the best way to incent those innovations.” She also said that the plan works “without ballooning the deficit.”
But Stiglitz, now teaching economics at Columbia University, said in an email that he opposes the idea of a dividend because “we need pricing + regulations + public investment,” such as public transportation and research and development. “That means we’ll need to spend at least part of the revenue [of the carbon tax] for public investment,” he said, adding that it was “more efficient” than refunding the carbon fee and “then trying to tax it back.”
Debate continues to swirl around climate change, the environment and the future of energy.
Hoping to offer a deep dive into the debate, the Permian Basin section, SEPM - Society for Sedimentary Geology - is hosting Lee Krystinik of Arlington for a lecture on the concerns and ways to find a pragmatic energy reality.
His presentation is part of the society's Robert Read Distinguished Lecturer Series. It’s planned for 6 p.m. March 5 at the Bush Convention Center. The public is invited to attend.
There’s a misconception that the energy industry “is not focused on climate or the environment,” said Sandra Elliott, chapter president. “We are, every day. We think about those issues more than people realize.”
Mike Raines, president-elect, said, “Some basis of opinion is not based on reality. It’s easy to get a window of a picture instead of the whole picture.”
He described Krystinik’s approach as “from the aspect that ‘I’m hearing things from both sides and I can’t decide which is right.’”
So, he attempts to take aspects from both sides of the question and mold them into a pragmatic approach, Raines said.
“Hopefully, by the end of his talk, both sides will be mad,” Raines said.
Where: Bush Convention Center
When: 6-9 p.m. March 5
Cost: $50 per person, $40 for full-time students
Krystinik said his speech will have two main goals.
“First, to offer basic information without making a call, so the audience can make their own decisions from the data that’s collected with funds from tax dollars,” he said in a phone interview. “Two, I’m going to talk about what’s known, what the assumptions are, what the policies are and what we should be doing.”
Krystinik stressed that he believes climate change is occurring and that mankind is contributing, but he takes a larger perspective on the issue.
“Most reports say the models have climate change in the 95th percentile; that means there’s a 5 percent chance it will occur. If you use data over models, the data is much lower in probability -- in the 20th percentile. That doesn’t say warming is not happening, or that we’re not part of the cause. It says it’s not happening as fast. With that, we have time to do a series of sensible things to address warming,” Krystinik said.
“I say, what’s changed and what hasn’t? You hear a lot about hurricanes and fires, floods, windstorms, snow vortexes, weather quakes,” he said. “How much has really changed over time? Over 50 years? Over 100 years?”
He said media reports discuss how more frequent and intense hurricanes have become. But, he said, looking back over the last 140 years, “there have been hurricane cycles that have been worse.”
He cited headlines about how the earth is warming. But, he said, “over the last 65 million years, if you measure the temperatures, we’re about the coldest the earth has been in the last 50 (million) to 60 million years.”
He said that listening to reports about climate change, “you think the world is coming to an end tomorrow. (But) the rate of change is tens of hundreds of years. With that, we can adapt and make sensible changes.”
It’s a monumental task, Krystinik said.
“If we were to go ahead and say that when we get to 2050, the world would be clean and green. That would require new nuclear plants, costing $8 (billion) to $9 billion each, to be built every day of every week of every month of every year between now and 2050 to get there.”
If a person wanted to be carbon neutral, he said they would have to plant three trees a day every day to reach that goal.
“People say, ‘OK, what do I do to cut down on the number of trees I’d have to plant?’” he said.
There are pragmatic, practical ways individuals, companies, industries and countries can address climate change without shattering economies, he said.
Krystinik said he sets his thermostat at 49 degrees in the wintertime and uses a space heater for additional warmth and sets it at 80 to 82 degrees in the summer.
“It’s not comfortable for a lot of people, but it makes a difference.”
Hanging clothes outside to dry instead of using a dryer would make a difference. Eliminating a flight between Texas and New York or Texas and San Francisco would be the equivalent of switching from a gasoline-powered car to an electric vehicle for a year -- two years if those flights were round-trip. Synthetic fabrics are responsible for 10 to 25 percent of carbon dioxide emissions.
The oil and gas industry should commit to using the various technologies available to eliminate flaring, he said, such as micro-plants that convert natural gas to liquids.
As for public policies, “I’d tell President Trump the sooner you shift the nation from coal to natural gas, you’d cut our carbon footprint 50 percent by going to natural gas. I feel for the people who mine coal, but it’s two to four times the carbon footprint of natural gas.”
He said there are great oil- and gas-related jobs in traditional coal-mining states such as Pennsylvania and West Virginia, home to the Marcellus Shale gas play.
Countries shifting from burning coal to natural gas would make a powerful impact, he said.
That would be a challenge, he said, because many developing countries see coal as an energy source that they can use to lift their people out of poverty, even though coal is the worst fossil fuel for the environment.
“It’s not our place to tell them they can’t do that,” he said.
His ultimate goal is to balance both sides of the debate.
“Solar, wind, fusion, these are all things we should do, things I support,” he said. “But to rely only on them to supply all the energy we need now? If you’re good with rolling blackouts and having your refrigerator or television run only one or two hours a day. I support research and development of improved alternative energy -- fusion, solar, wind, energy efficiency. But each piece has to be a pretty big darn big piece to have an impact.”