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Will an election year finally make the Biden admin get serious about natural gas?


Daily Caller News Foundation

2024 is an election year in the United States and, in election years, partisan politics always tend to impact the energy space. This year is certainly no exception as exemplified by recent events.

January brought us the White House implementation of a “pause” in permitting for proposed new liquefied natural gas export facilities. Like his ill-considered cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline, this move by President Joe Biden was a sop to his party’s funders in the climate-alarm movement.

The White House claims the “pause” will likely be lifted conveniently after Election Day has come and gone, but we can be certain that the billionaires who fund the climate-alarm lobby would advocate making it permanent in a second Biden term.

In February, Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was removing existing natural gas power plants from its proposed carbon regulations scheduled to become final in April, disappointing some of the same climate alarm groups it had pleased in January.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan said his agency “is taking a new, comprehensive approach to cover the entire fleet of natural gas-fired turbines, as well as cover more pollutants including climate, toxic and criteria air pollution,” all of which may well be true.

But we can be sure the move was taken at least in part due to pressure from key Democrats from natural-gas producing states like Pennsylvania’s Sen. Bob Casey, who happens to be up for re-election himself this year. A key Democrat critic of the EPA regulatory action is West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who, while not seeking re-election, remains the powerful chairman of the Senate Energy Committee through the end of this year.

This decision by EPA to exclude existing natural gas plants seems also to be a rare recognition of reality from this administration, which has been laser-focused on regulatory efforts to marginalize this valuable tool for U.S. energy security and emissions reductions. In a recent analysis piece focused on energy security, S&P Global Vice Chairman Daniel Yergin, author of “The New Map,” pointed out that America’s “emissions from electric generation in 2022 had declined by a third since 2010, while the economy in the same period had grown by almost a third. The number one reason for the reduction in CO2 is natural gas replacing coal in electric generation.”

No other nation on earth has come close to achieving such major emissions reductions. Yet the Biden administration has often seemed bent on killing the energy goose that has been laying these golden eggs.

Where energy security is concerned, Yergin points to California’s grid as a prime example of natural gas’s crucial role, noting, “wind and solar provide about 25% of California’s electricity. But the state depends on natural gas-fired generation — almost 50% of the total — to keep the system balanced.”

Texas provides another clear example of this energy security paradigm. Texas far and away leads all U.S. states in wind generation capacity and sports the nation’s fastest-growing solar sector.

But, as in California, natural gas remains the dominant source of power generation, accounting for almost 45% of total generation during 2023, and kicking in far higher percentages during peak hours in periods of extreme high or low temperatures.

The twin roles of energy security and emissions reductions played by U.S. natural gas are also crucial to other nations around the world. We are all aware of the major role played by U.S. LNG in ensuring energy security for Germany and other European countries in the wake of Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Yergin also points to the example of the February announcement by the government in India that it will invest $67 billion to expand that country’s natural gas supply system. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his plan is to increase natural gas power generation from 6% to 15% of the nation’s electricity mix by 2045.

U.S. LNG can play a key role in enabling that transition.

Election years invariably place pressures on those seeking re-election to act irrationally where energy policy is concerned. But the integral role played by natural gas in providing both energy security and emissions reductions at home and abroad demands a balanced approach.

Hopefully, the EPA move to exclude existing natural gas plants from its carbon rule is a sign of better balance to come.

David Blackmon is an energy writer and consultant based in Texas. He spent 40 years in the oil and gas business, where he specialized in public policy and communications.

The views and opinions express in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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Republished with permission from Daily Caller News Foundation

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