API chief wants Paris negotiators to follow ‘U.S. model’

Source: Amanda Reilly, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The American Petroleum Institute yesterday called on nations to choose an “all of the above” strategy at the upcoming international climate negotiations over policies that provide incentives for wind and solar energy.

API President and CEO Jack Gerard said other countries should follow the “U.S. model” — that increased natural gas production drives down carbon dioxide emissions. U.S. negotiators, he said, should present themselves as a “case study” of how investment in natural gas driven by the market can help provide climate solutions.

Nations are scheduled to meet beginning in Paris on Nov. 30 to craft a new international climate change agreement. Ahead of the meeting, the Obama administration has pledged that the United States will achieve a 26 to 28 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 compared to 2005 levels.

At the meeting, the Obama administration will likely lean heavily on the Clean Power Plan, which calls for states to craft plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, to show its commitment to addressing climate change.

Gerard slammed the Clean Power Plan as a “command-and-control” mandate that tips the scale in favor of wind and solar. Relying on it at the Paris talks would be “misdirected,” Gerard charged.

“We believe the market-driven forces are taking us to where it appears the administration wants us to go, but there’s no acknowledgement of what’s happened in the United States,” Gerard said. “It’s this idea that somehow we have to go to Paris with a mandate.”

He pointed to recent data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showing that monthly carbon dioxide emissions in the power sector this year reached a 27-year low. Gerard argued that increased domestic production of natural gas through hydraulic fracturing has driven the reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

API today also released an analysis that found half the 22 states with below-average CO2 emission rates derive the majority of their power from natural gas.

A recent Sierra Club report found that carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. electricity production were the lowest in 20 years, but the club used the report to call for increased use of renewable energy technologies (Greenwire, Nov. 4).

In a statement, the Sierra Club called API’s analysis “flawed” and said it worried that methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas, caused by natural gas production would exacerbate climate change.

“It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the oil industry wants to sell the profitable idea that fossil fuels like dirty oil and gas will solve the climate crisis,” Sierra Club Policy Director Liz Perera said. “Locking in fossil fuel infrastructure for the next half century or more won’t help our climate, and in fact poses a grave danger.”

A coalition of environmentalists led by Food & Water Watch are calling for nations to reject any endorsement of hydraulic fracturing as part of the Paris negotiations.

Gerard took a dig at environmentalist activists who are pushing a new “keep it in the ground” movement calling for a ban on fossil fuel leasing activities on federal lands.

“It may be an inconvenient truth for ‘leave it in the ground’ activists, but fossil fuels and environmental progress are not and never have been mutually exclusive,” he said.

Gerard acknowledged that not all nations have abundant shale reserves like the United States but said he saw a role for U.S. exports of natural gas in those areas.

The API head, however, reiterated his group’s opposition to a carbon tax that would drive fuel switching from coal to natural gas.

“The most important thing is look at how we got to today as the world leaders in carbon reduction,” he said. “It wasn’t through government mandates, it wasn’t through a carbon tax. … It was done primarily driven by market forces within a context of an all-of-the-above.”

Gerard broadly called for the debate on climate change to move beyond questions of belief in the science to discussions of solutions.

“There are those who would like to focus, if you will, on a climate change litmus test, arguing, ‘Well, do you believe or don’t you believe?'” he said. “We think we need to go to real-world solutions, and we believe that’s exactly what this U.S. model shows.”