Shared from the 1/8/2020 The Denver Post eEdition By Judith Kohler The Denver Post
A national oil and gas trade group is kicking off a campaign to tell the industry’s story in face of concerns about climate change and proposed fracking bans, and the CEO says Colorado is part of his itinerary.
Mike Sommers, CEO and president of the American Petroleum Institute, told reporters in a call Tuesday that the oil and gas industry is meeting the “enormous and growing demand for affordable energy” while cutting greenhouse-gas emissions to address climate change.
“America today is the unrivaled leader in energy development and emissions reductions,” Sommers said.
Advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have allowed the U.S. to dramatically cut its energy imports and made it a net exporter of oil and natural gas for the first time in 60 years, Sommers said.
The report, “This is Energy Progress,” released by API on Tuesday and a nationwide TV and digital campaign are being launched as concerns climb about the impacts of climate change and some Democratic presidential candidates talk about banning oil and gas drilling on public lands or prohibit fracking altogether.
However, Sommers insisted that the industry isn’t playing defense. He said fracking bans would upend the oil and gas industry, resulting in the loss of millions of jobs, increasing household energy costs and making the country dependent on foreign sources of energy.
“What it really is all about is going on offense to tell the story of this industry. When you think about it, one of the most important environmental things that has happened in this country in the last 25 years was the fracking revolution,” he added.
It drove down the costs of natural gas, increasingly displacing coal, which emits significantly more carbon dioxide than gas, Sommers said.
But oil and gas development is also a source of methane, a greenhouse gas that is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the short term. In 2014, Colorado became the first state in the nation to limit methane emissions from oil and gas operations. The rules require companies to find and fix methane leaks and install equipment to capture most of the emissions.
State officials are strengthening emissions controls as they approve rules to carry out a new state law that prioritizes public, health and safety when regulating oil and gas.
The Trump administration has rolled back Obama-era methane rules that were modeled after Colorado’s regulation and were applied nationwide. Sommers said it’s not in the industry’s interest to waste methane, and companies are sharing best management practices as part of efforts to further cut emissions.
It’s difficult to say whether, as the industry asserts, that methane emissions have decreased, said Amy Townsend-Small, an associate professor of environmental science at the University of Cincinnati.
“There are a lot of different ways to measure it. If you’re talking about per well, maybe it’s gone down,” Townsend-Small said. “But overall, there are more wells than there ever have been.”
The move from less coal to natural gas has helped drive down carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector, she added. As a consequence, transportation now produces more carbon dioxide emissions nationally than the power sector.
In Colorado, the air quality in the Denver area and north along the Front Range, where drilling has intensified, is below federal standards. The Environmental Protection Agency in December reclassified Colorado a “serious” violator of federal air quality laws, a downgrade from “moderate.” The change will bring stricter controls to reduce air pollution.
State laws passed last year promote the use of more renewable energy, electric vehicles and the reduction of carbon emissions. Several Colorado communities and rural electric associations have set or are considering goals for increasing the use of renewable energy sources and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.