Technology outpacing climate-change legislation, lawmakers say

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 2 -- Technology is moving ahead more quickly than legislation to address global climate change, three federal lawmakers agreed on Dec. 1. Congress won’t be able to get back to work on the issue until 2010, they added.

Bills approved by the full US House and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee haven’t answered significant questions, US Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND) and US Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said during a forum on US climate and energy policy cosponsored by Newsweek and the American Petroleum Institute. But US Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who cosponsored the House bill, said the measure was an important first step in a long process.

“The measure is analogous to what we did in telecommunications,” Markey said, noting that Congress passed bills in 1992, 1993, and 1996 that launched, respectively, the modern cable, wireless, and broadband systems while creating 2 million new jobs.

Emerging energy technologies could lead to a $2 trillion domestic industry if the US decided to actively support them, Markey said. “We have a choice. Right now, our energy strategy says ‘Made by [the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries].’ If we don’t act, our new strategy will be to use products made in China. We can decide to release our own entrepreneurial spirit instead,” he said.

The US Department of Energy has what effectively is the largest energy venture capital resource in history with federal economic stimulus funds it received to support new technology research and development, according to Dorgan. “I think there are unbelievably exciting things going on that we don’t fully understand yet, but that will help us a lot,” he said.

Outside government
The private sector is moving ahead too, other panelists said. US oil and gas companies collectively spend three times as much as the federal government in alternative and renewable energy R&D, API Pres. Jack N. Gerard said. US automakers plan to introduce new models in the next few years, including General Motors’ Chevy Volt, which could drastically advance electric hybrid technology late in 2010, Upton pointed out.

The two climate bills currently before Congress could jeopardize such efforts and harm other US industries during a significant economic recession, Gerard argued. “We need to reset the discussion. The bill which passed the House and the one which the Senate EPW committee approved kill jobs and penalize specific industries,” he said.

Upton said the bill that the House passed by seven votes on June 26 did not contain enough protections for businesses and consumers using electricity generated from coal. “I’m convinced that if we had the vote today, it would go down by 50 votes,” he said, adding that an energy bill which the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved by 15 to 8 votes on June 17 was more balanced because it was truly bipartisan.

The bill, the American Clean Energy Leadership Act (S. 1462), has not been brought to the floor, Dorgan confirmed, partly because of Senate Republicans’ efforts to block new legislation. “We’re not getting bipartisan support on anything. We have to file cloture motions on noncontroversial issues,” he said.

But Dorgan also questioned the heavy reliance on a carbon cap-and-trade program in the measures which have moved forward. “I’m not sure I’m comfortable with simply handing a new $1 trillion commodities market to Wall Street on Monday and hoping it will responsibly establish a price by Thursday,” he said. “There are more direct ways for government to reduce emissions such as a carbon tax and command-and-control measures.”

Senate hearing
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee leaders sent a similar signal as they opened a Dec. 2 hearing on greenhouse gas reduction policy options. Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) said that he has supported a cap-and-trade approach for some time, but added that carbon taxes, direct regulation, sector-specific approaches, and technological innovations may achieve the same results.

“It’s important to note that these policies are not mutually exclusive,” he continued. “In fact, it will more than likely be necessary to rely on a suite of these policies to ensure that we are effective in addressing global warming.”

“We need to dispense with the blind faith in cap-and-trade that has dominated the past year of debate, or at least question whether that loyalty is truly warranted,” said Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.), the committee’s ranking minority member. “A more inclusive debate would allow us to examine which policies are actually capable of reducing emissions while protecting, or even strengthening, the economy.”

She said the Senate should explore other options, including pairing tax cuts with a price on emissions. Murkowski emphasized that she isn’t suggesting that any approach for reducing emissions not be considered or planning to reduce any tax reform legislation, but has become concerned that the congressional climate change debate has become too narrow.

At the Newsweek-API event, Gerard said the oil and gas industry should get an opportunity to explore more of the US Outer Continental Shelf following 25 years of congressional moratoriums and presidential withdrawals. “We really haven’t been given the opportunity to determine just how much oil and gas we have,” he said, noting that production at Prudhoe Bay, which originally was expected to be 9 billion bbl, has passed 15 billion bbl, and the Gulf of Mexico, which once was considered depleted, has produced 40 billion bbl “and we’ve just scratched the surface.”

Markey responded that the US can’t indefinitely continue consuming 25% of the world’s oil production while having only 2-3% of total global reserves. “I think we can be open-minded about more drilling, particularly for natural gas, but we need to change our overall approach,” he said. “Clearly, [US President Barack H. Obama] has put health care up front, but the energy bill and financial reform are both on deck.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

Related Articles

Victoria extends drilling, fracing ban

01/30/2015 The new Victorian Labor government of premier Daniel Andrews has extended the coal seam gas (CSG) exploration and hydraulic fracturing ban in the s...

US Senate passes bill approving Keystone XL pipeline project

01/30/2015 The US Senate has passed a bill approving construction of the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline by a 62-36 vote after 3 weeks of debate. Nine...

Pennsylvania governor reinstates state forest drilling moratorium

01/29/2015 Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed an executive order fully reinstating a 2010 moratorium on new oil and gas leases in state forests and parks. ...

DOE could meet 45-day LNG export decision deadline, Senate panel told

01/29/2015 The US Department of Energy would have no trouble meeting a 45-day deadline to reach a national interest determination for proposed LNG export faci...

Harvest drops Venezuelan arbitration move

01/29/2015 Affiliates of Harvest Natural Resources Inc. have withdrawn a request for international arbitration alleging the government of Venezuela hampered e...

API forms Colorado Petroleum Council, picks executive director

01/29/2015 The American Petroleum Institute has opened a Denver office that will focus on oil and gas priorities in Colorado. Tracee Bentley, who previously w...

US House approves bill aimed at increasing LNG exports

01/28/2015 The US House of Representatives passed a bill aimed at increasing US LNG exports by requiring the Department of Energy to determine whether a proje...

PHMSA outlines community steps to reduce pipeline incident risks

01/27/2015 The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration released a guide to best practices for communities to reduce risks from pipeline inci...

DOI’s 2017-22 draft proposed OCS program includes Mid-Atlantic sale

01/27/2015 The US Department of the Interior released a draft proposed 2017-22 Outer Continental Shelf management program that included 14 potential oil and g...
White Papers

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by

The impact of aging infrastructure in process manufacturing industries

Process manufacturing companies in the oil and gas, utilities, chemicals and natural resource industri...
Sponsored by

What is System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis?

This paper will explain some of the fundamentals of System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis and demonstrate...
Available Webcasts


Prevention, Detection and Mitigation of pipeline leaks in the modern world

When Thu, Apr 30, 2015

Preventing, detecting and mitigating leaks or commodity releases from pipelines are a top priority for all pipeline companies. This presentation will look at various aspects related to preventing, detecting and mitigating pipeline commodity releases from a generic and conceptual point of view, while at the same time look at the variety of offerings available from Schneider Electric to meet some of the requirements associated with pipeline integrity management. 

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

Global LNG: Adjusting to New Realities

Fri, Mar 20, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s March 20, 2015, webcast will look at how global LNG trade will be affected over the next 12-24 months by falling crude oil prices and changing patterns and pressures of demand. Will US LNG production play a role in balancing markets? Or will it add to a growing global oversupply of LNG for markets remote from easier natural gas supply? Will new buyers with marginal credit, smaller requirements, or great need for flexibility begin to look attractive to suppliers? How will high-cost, mega-projects in Australia respond to new construction cost trends?

register:WEBCAST


US Midstream at a Crossroads

Fri, Mar 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Mar. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on US midstream companies at an inflection point in their development in response to more than 6 years shale oil and gas production growth. Major infrastructure—gas plants, gathering systems, and takeaway pipelines—have been built. Major fractionation hubs have expanded. Given the radically changed pricing environment since mid-2014, where do processors go from here? What is the fate of large projects caught in mid-development? How to producers and processors cooperate to ensure a sustainable and profitable future? This event will serve to set the discussion table for the annual GPA Convention in San Antonio, Apr. 13-16, 2015.

This event is sponsored by Leidos Engineering.

register:WEBCAST


The Future of US Refining

Fri, Feb 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Feb. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on the future of US refining as various forces this year conspire to pull the industry in different directions. Lower oil prices generally reduce feedstock costs, but they have also lowered refiners’ returns, as 2015 begins with refined products priced at lows not seen in years. If lower per-barrel crude prices dampen production of lighter crudes among shale plays, what will happen to refiners’ plans to export more barrels of lighter crudes? And as always, refiners will be affected by government regulations, particularly those that suppress demand, increase costs, or limit access to markets or supply.

register:WEBCAST


Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected