Oil and Gas Industry Touts Strong Production and Falling Emissions at Climate Hearing in Boulder
During a U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis field hearing in Boulder, Colo. Liberty Oilfield Services CEO Chris Wright testified about the innovations in the oil and natural gas industry has made to reduce emissions while powering economic growth.
This was the first field hearing for the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, and featured testimony from local Colorado representatives about what actions they are undertaking to address and respond to climate change.
Wright discussed the realities of the global energy market and the need to embrace realistic measures that will address climate change and maintain economic growth, noting that expanded access to energy has been a key development around the world that’s increased life expectancy and driven down poverty.
“A rational global approach that balances climate mitigation, economic growth, and energy access objectives is required,” Wright said. “Fortunately, Colorado’s oil & gas sector is well positioned to play its part in achieving all three priorities.”
Wright noted that natural gas “has become the number one source of electricity in the U.S.” and is helping drive down carbon emissions. U.S. carbon dioxide emissions recently hit 25-year lows with the primary driver being the switch from coal-fired power plants to cleaner burning natural gas.
Wright argued that global demand for hydrocarbons will be sustained for decades to come, so it is best to produce resources in a responsible manner domestically, rather than export production to countries with less stringent standards and regulations.
“It should not be surprising that both emission sources are dramatically lower in higher income, better infrastructure countries,” Wright said. “Oil and natural gas produced in the United States results in lower emissions than oil and gas produced in Russia, Iraq, Mexico or virtually anywhere else.”
“In fact, over the past eight years, Colorado’s oil production has quadrupled at the same time as a nearly 50-percent drop in volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from oil production. This is technology at work, coupled with the construction of new high-tech gas gathering infrastructure,” Wright continued.
The climate committee was formed in the U.S. House of Representatives this year and is chaired by Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.). Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), who represents Boulder and the surrounding area, is also a member.
The ranking Republican, Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), said “we’ve got to get this right” when it comes to climate change, noting that his home state of Louisiana is facing rising sea levels, but that his district like many others can’t afford a jump in electricity prices.
Graves, who spent yesterday with the rest of the committee touring the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Boulder, and said “The scientists, the experts, the facilities you have here. This place is going to lead the innovation. Not just for Boulder, not just for Colorado, not just for the United States, but for the world. And we’re going to have to keep working together.”
The United States “has reduced emissions more than then next 12 countries combined,” Graves said touting the innovation happening in the country to boost production while strengthening environmental protection.
Graves also requested Wright review Germany’s renewables plan that’s only driven up the cost of energy.
“Germany doubled their electricity prices from the start of their energy tradition,” Wright said. “They’re today three times higher than the United States, and from their own public health data 30,000 people are killed every year, premature deaths, because of the extra costs of energy that they don’t heat their homes.”
Echoing Wright’s comments, Graves also noted that failing to maintain strong domestic energy production forces the United States to rely on imports that may come from counties to do align with American political interests.
“If we’re going to be dependent on [oil and natural gas], it seems like it makes more sense to produce it where we can do it safest and cleanest – and that’s the United States,” Graves said.
Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) also testified at the hearing and touted the state’s strategy to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050, That plan was boosted by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) who mentioned the commitment from Xcel Energy – the state’s largest utility – to meet that goal.
But Xcel has since had to backtrack by acknowledging that it won’t be able to achieve that without natural gas which provides “baseload” power when the sun isn’t shining and the wind it’s blowing to power renewables.
The Climate Crisis Committee will continue to hold hearings and will ultimately formulate policy recommendations for legislation relating to climate change mitigation.