By Timothy Cama - 01/05/16 01:50 PM EST
The oil lobby is bracing for more attacks from environmentalists who helped block the Keystone XL pipeline, wary that the green groups, buoyed by the recent victory, are gearing up to target more pipeline and fossil fuel projects.
American Petroleum Institute (API) head Jack Gerard used his annual State of American Energy speech to condemn the tactics used against the oil and natural gas industry, using the Keystone fight as a prime example.
“Emboldened by their ability to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, anti-fossil-fuel advocates have set their sights on all energy infrastructure projects,” he said.
Gerard repeatedly went after opponents of fossil fuel, saying their policy positions would wreak havoc on the country’s economy, environment and security, among other things.
“There are an ardent few who continue to believe that keeping our nation’s abundant energy resources in the ground is a credible and viable national energy strategy,” he said, a jab at environmentalists who endorse limited fossil fuel production.
By contrast, Gerard said, the oil industry’s positions are best for the climate. Increased natural gas use will result in lower carbon dioxide emissions than coal, he argued, while more pipelines mean that fuels can be transported more efficiently with reduced emissions.
The speech came weeks after the API scored a major victory with Congress’s vote to lift the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports.
It was the group’s top goal for 2015, which Gerard called “a victory of long-term vision and fact-based policymaking over political ideology and ideological dogma.”
But it also came weeks after world leaders from nearly 200 countries hammered out a global climate change agreement in Paris, which some environmentalists cheered as a significant step toward ending the use of traditional fuel sources.
Despite that, Gerard was optimistic about the future of fossil fuels, citing federal data predicting that they will provide 80 percent of the U.S.’s energy in 2040.
“This is just another data point in support of a long-standing tenet of energy policy held by most economists, academics and government analysts: Fossil fuels will remain the foundation upon which our modern society rests for decades to come,” he said.
Gerard said oil and gas infrastructure projects such as pipelines are at risk from environmentalists and political pressure, leading him to name infrastructure as one of the top policy priorities for the group this year.
“I can’t overemphasize how important these infrastructure issues are,” he said. “Let’s put people to work and build the pipelines, safe pipelines.”
The API’s other top priority will be significantly reforming or repealing the renewable fuel standard, which mandates that ethanol and other biofuels be blended into the country’s supply of gasoline.
“It is a relic of our nation’s era of energy dependency that poses a direct threat to our nation’s economy, risks reversal of important environmental improvements and could raise energy costs for American consumers,” Gerard said.
This story was updated at 7:06 p.m.