Obama inconsistent on natural gas, industry says

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The Obama administration is inconsistent in its policies on natural gas, encouraging its use while moving to clamp down on it through regulations, the country’s top oil and gas lobbyist said.

Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute (API), said the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plan to reduce carbon emissions from power plants relies on increased natural gas use. But the EPA and other agencies are also acting against the industry.

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“The administration recognizes this success and has been vocal in its support for natural gas,” Gerard told reporters Thursday. “But the administration’s public commitment to natural gas and embrace of our industry’s economic and environmental benefits stands in stark contrast to their broader energy policy.”

As an example, Gerard pointed to a Congressional Research Service report from April finding that between 2009 and 2013, oil production on federal land fell 6 percent, while gas production dropped 28 percent. On non-federal land, both increased drastically during that time.

The Bureau of Land Management is working on regulations regarding hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on public lands, while EPA is working on a report to justify more fracking rules. And the Department of Energy is working on processing applications to export natural gas.

“All told, at least twelve different agencies are involved in some form of review or rulemaking that could adversely impact the use of hydraulic fracturing, on which most of our current and future energy supplies depend,” Gerard said.

Gerard encouraged the Obama administration to increase exports of liquefied natural gas as part of its plan to fight climate change. He reasoned that natural gas emits less carbon than coal, and could replace coal in foreign countries.

API also released Thursday a study it commissioned from IHS Global Insight to quantify the benefits that the recent oil and gas boom has given to state and local governments and school districts.

“Today’s report shows that for cities and schools still struggling with the ripple effects of a recession, the economic benefits resulting from new advances in U.S. energy production are making a huge difference,” said Kyle Isakower, vice president of regulatory and economic policy at API.

“Higher energy production has helped to push down the cost of keeping our students warm and local governments running,” he said. “And it has given local taxpayers the freedom to set aside more funding for education and local services, like housing and safety.”

Schools saved more than $1 billion in energy costs last year due to unconventional drilling techniques like fracking and horizontal drilling, enough to hire more than 14,200 teachers, API said. State and local taxpayers saved $720 million.