Oil group: Regulators are ignoring impact of natural gas on emissions

Oil group: Regulators are ignoring impact of natural gas on emissions
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The oil and gas lobby says the Obama administration is ignoring the role of natural gas in reducing carbon emissions around the country.

In a report issued Monday, the American Petroleum Institute (API) noted that the United States has done more to reduce its carbon emissions than other developed nations and attributed that decrease to an abundance of American natural gas.

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The natural gas boom, API President Jack Gerard said, “has helped us achieve substantial and sustained emissions reductions without command-and-control style regulatory intervention.”

The group said natural gas is a good way to produce power with lower emissions than other energy sources, noting that half of the 22 states with below-average emissions use natural gas more than any other fuel.

The industry has long said the U.S. should rely on gas as it transitions to cleaner power, and has pushed back against power plant regulations issued by President Obama.

Emissions reductions didn’t come “through government mandate, it wasn’t through a carbon tax, it wasn’t through any directive, it was done primarily driven by market forces within the context of all of the above,” Gerard said.

Researchers and green groups note that American power sector carbon emissions are shrinking, something environmentalists attribute to the decreased reliance on coal-fired power plants.

The natural gas industry was disappointed when the final Clean Power Plan rule for power plants diminished the potential role of natural gas as a cleaner “bridge” between fossil fuels and renewable energy.

When releasing the rule in August, the Environmental Protection Agency instead noted that the final rule is crafted as a way to allow for a quicker transition from fossil fuel power directly to renewables like wind and solar.

Clean energy advocates and environmentalists say that’s for the best, given that natural gas — while offering lower emissions than coal, for example — still contributes to climate change.

In a statement, the Sierra Club dismissed the group's report.

"In general, 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," Liz Perera, the group's climate policy director 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. The only way to solve this global problem is 100% clean energy." 

But API and others said regulators should still look to natural gas in their long-term transition toward cleaner fuel. The group said that as world leaders meet to craft a climate change deal later this year, they should follow the “U.S. model” of increasing natural gas production.

“Fossil fuels and environmental protection are not and never have been mutually exclusive,” Gerard said. “Energy development has played, and will continue to play, a leading role in making the United States the world leader in emissions reductions.”

—This post was updated at 4:45 pm