How the big US energy companies judge Biden’s energy program

How the big US energy companies judge Biden's energy program

The deepening of the New York Times on the energy plan of the democratic candidate Biden

Joseph R. Biden Jr. captivated environmentalists and liberals when he announced a $ 2 trillion plan to promote electric vehicles, energy efficiency and other policies to tackle climate change.

But the plan revealed on July 14 also gained a measure of support from an unexpected source: the oil and gas industry which is closely aligned with the Trump administration and is a great source of contributions for the president's election campaign. – writes the NYT .

Which may seem strange when you consider that the plan aims to "zero" greenhouse gas emissions by and no later than 2050, in part by discouraging the use of fossil fuels. Biden also wants to spend more on mass transportation, expand solar and wind farms and build thousands of charging stations for electric vehicles.

However, the industry was relieved of what the plan did not include, especially the ban on hydraulic fracturing, the approach that has boosted domestic oil and gas production over the past twelve years.

"There is a lot of room for oil and gas," said Matt Gallagher, president of Parsley Energy, an oil producer from western Texas, about the Biden plan.

Some executives were particularly excited that Biden wanted the federal government to invest in carbon capture and sequestration, which means preventing greenhouse gas emissions from reaching the atmosphere and thus allowing the industry to continue burning fossil fuels for decades. In light of his all-encompassing and eclectic approach to energy, Mr. Biden also proposes to use advanced nuclear reactors to produce electricity.

"There is common ground," said Mike Sommers, president of the American Petroleum Institute, which represents industry in Washington and is close to the Trump administration. "We appreciate the fact that they recognize that there will be a role for natural gas and oil in our future."

We share the overall goal of reducing emissions and tackling climate change. "

Oil and gas executives have noted that they have worked productively with democratic administrations. During the Obama administration, oil companies enjoyed significant profits even when federal regulators implemented stricter environmental regulations.

Charif Souki, a Houston entrepreneur, a pioneer of the liquefied natural gas export industry, expressed enthusiasm for the Biden plan .

"Infrastructure investments are large, $ 400 billion for research and development are phenomenal and highly anticipated."

Of course, most oil and gas executives would prefer President Trump to be re-elected because he has spent the past three and a half years reviewing the regulations.

Fossil fuel interests donated seven times more to the Trump campaign than the Biden campaign until June, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit research team. These numbers are partly distorted because Trump has raised money since taking office in 2017.

The president's fiercest supporters in the energy sector said Biden's plan was designed to look moderate so that it can compete with Trump in oil and gas producing states.

"He wants to conquer Pennsylvania, so he has eased the rhetoric for obvious reasons," said Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance in Denver.
Coal managers are absolutely hostile to Biden. "Their general reason is to eliminate miners and the use of coal in this country," said Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association.

However, energy sector executives also complain to the Trump administration. Some executives in the natural gas sector privately claim that the president's trade war cost them dearly because China, the world's largest gas importer, has only purchased three loads of liquefied natural gas from the United States in the past 22 months.
Other executives say that Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate deal has unnecessarily damaged the country's image abroad. And some think that administration's management of the coronavirus pandemic has dealt a severe blow to the economy and energy demand.

"Masks are good for the economy," said Mr. Gallagher of Parsley Energy. "Masks must be an economic, not a political thing."

Stef Feldman, the political director of Biden's campaign, said it is not surprising that some executives in the oil and gas sector are open to some of Biden's ideas. "More and more energy companies are realizing the reality of climate change, the direction in which consumers are moving, the direction in which other companies are moving and making changes as a result," he said.

When asked about fracking, Ms. Feldman said Biden would end the new leases for fracking on federal land, but that "it is not in favor of a total ban on fracking."

"The policy of a Biden administration or a Trump administration may not be so different in the sense of exploiting gas and oil exports as a foreign policy tool," said Charlie Riedl, executive director of the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, an industrial group.

There is also growing recognition by some in the oil and gas sector that climate change is a problem that industry needs to help tackle.
"Everyone I know knows that there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than there was in the past, and it's a common opinion that it's probably not a good thing and that we have to do something," said Lawrence B. Dale, president of Dale Operating Company, a Dallas-based company that has investments in 5,000 oil and gas wells.

The Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned utilities, said its members are generally aligned with Biden's plan for a clean electricity grid.
Pedro J. Pizarro, president and chief executive officer of Edison International, the parent company of Edison Southern California, said the Biden plan's emphasis on clean energy employment, energy efficiency and transportation is smart. If anything, he said, proposals for more electric vehicle chargers should increase as emissions from cars and trucks continue to contribute significantly to climate change.

"Even if the devil hides in the details, we think the plan is mostly correct," said Pizarro.

The Biden plan will renew the federal government's efforts to improve the energy efficiency that the Trump administration has eliminated. The proposal also calls for extending tax credits for solar and wind energy, which have become increasingly competitive with respect to natural gas. Wind and solar energy groups also support Biden's proposals to strengthen the electricity transmission grid to help their technologies.

At least some in the renewable energy sector accept that the Biden plan keeps fossil fuels in the energy mix.
"I don't want to minimize in the short term that natural gas is an important partner," said Tom Kiernan, chief executive officer of the American Wind Energy Association. "What we are seeing are all kinds of combinations."

That oil and gas interests are good with a potential Biden presidency could scare some liberals, said Robert Shrum, the director of the Center for Political Future of the University of Southern California who advised Al Gore, John Kerry and others Democrats. "There would be some people in the Democratic Party who would get angry that there are people in the oil sector who support Biden, but they should back off," said Shrum. "Don't we want to win Texas?"

(extract from Eprcomunicazione's foreign press review)

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL on Sun, 02 Aug 2020 05:00:05 +0000.