It’s a new day all right. It’s a new president, a new administration and a new, albeit different, way of managing and communicating our nation’s business. It’s a new plan too! As a candidate in 2016, “the Donald” unveiled his platform and message with the new “Make America Great Again” hat. It came in red and white and became symbolic of the message he wanted to convey. Trump was seen just about everywhere wearing this hat. The message was an indication of the change in direction to which the wearer hoped this country would move. As a component of that message, “The Donald,” as a candidate, also introduced a new plan: his “America First Energy Plan.” There was not a hat for this soundbite.
Becoming a Global Energy Power
We have had major legislative acts pertaining to energy going back to the 1920s, with a multitude of energy-related legislation in the 1970s following the fuel shortages, some of which you might remember. Topics like the development of unconventional oil and natural
gas, alternative and renewable fuels, sustainability and energy conservation – these were not even a part of the national energy policy jargon. The natural gas industry is now venturing out in developing a world market, the military is experimenting with alternative and renewable energy sources and corporations are “going green” and marketing conservation.
The transition from carbon-based fuels has been what some analysts refer to as the “long transition.” Controversy persists over when or if this will happen, and at what pace, but what is undeniable is that society depends on energy to maintain and sustain the quality of life we all enjoy, and since the 1970s, the goal has been to achieve some form of energy independence.
Could it be that we are no longer obsessed with moving from carbon-based fuels, and moving beyond the lofty goal of energy independence?
Energy independence is a simple concept. It is the goal of reducing reliance on imports of various forms of energy, such as petroleum, from foreign sources – notably unstable sources.
It was not very long ago when simply becoming energy independent appeared insurmountable to many. The United States has relied on imports of oil and natural gas since the 1950s. In early 2011, the situation took a turn when the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that the nation had become a net exporter of non-crude oil petroleum and refined petroleum products, and within a decade it is estimated that we could finally become a net energy exporter. The shale revolution and development of new technologies along with improving old ones, a couple of decades of entrepreneurship, federal investment in new technology and the ability to overcome challenges have led to this new outlook and transformation.
Now, just as we are potentially becoming energy independent as a nation, the transformation continues even beyond beyond that toward making the United States a global energy power again. This is a remarkable turn of events considering all of the the potential pitfalls of the last few decades, such as excessive regulation and the near extinction of the coal industry, and I would be remiss if I did not mention the environmental issues and concerns related to the shale revolution.
Since energy policy does not stop at the coastline, nor for that matter immediately offshore, international issues related to overall national security and energy policy are multi-faceted and complicated – global marketing, fuel switching, carbon emission reduction (in the United States electric power sectors are at their lowest levels since the early 1990s), national interests, among others. Should we reach the goal of becoming a major energy exporter globally it remains unclear whether the market for substantial volumes elsewhere exists. Countries such as Poland and Lithuania will benefit greatly from our natural gas exports; whereas, China, India and South Korea – all of whom rely heavily on coal for their power and industrial needs might also benefit from our exporting of low cost natural gas.
Implementing the Plan
Back to the plan: the essential elements include strategic deregulation and eliminating certain policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the United States Rule. It is claimed by the Trump administration that this would increase wages by more than $30 billion over the next seven years. The coal industry will be revived, and the oil and gas revolution will be embraced while removing some of the restrictions on federal lands. The revenues in part will be designated for infrastructure rebuilding. Less expensive energy will also have a positive impact on the agricultural industry.
One can imagine the opposition to this plan from those who oppose just about everything associated with the burning of fossil fuels.
This plan is a big deal.
And it did not go unnoticed that the plan also expresses the need for responsible stewardship of the environment, which is intended to remain a high priority and includes refocusing the EPA to its essential mission of protecting our air and water.
It’s a plan – a huge plan. As we move forward, it is my view that as a professional community we must remain cognizant of our role in being good stewards in protecting the environment and taking a leadership role in communicating what good environmental stewardship is, what it looks like, and how to implement it both domestically and internationally. From an environmental perspective, we have a very important role to play as the nation’s America First Energy Plan comes into focus. We as a society remain a petroleum hydrocarbon-based society, which will continue for decades to come. “The Donald” still wears the “Make America Great Again” hat, although he is now President Trump, and we as a nation have a new plan.
A lot goes into a plan, and implementing it is another matter.
The change in the political climate has created somewhat of a unique opportunity to – and to use a term from President Trump’s predecessor – “transform” the nation’s climate and energy policy.
I am optimistic about our nation’s energy future, and the planet as well (I am confident the planet will get along just fine with or without us), but it is up to us to assure strong environmental stewardship.
In the meantime, I am thinking about buying a new hat with some messaging, and thinking about AAPG’s plan in promoting sound environmental leadership and stewardship - this is a good time to revisit the important role we can play. There’s a lot that has to happen to make this new energy plan a reality.
So in the immortal words of anonymous, “If your Plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters. Stay cool!”