Recently a coalition of climate activists released a petition declaring a state of climate emergency in which they demanded President Obama use the power of his office to overturn last year’s decision by Congress to lift the ban on crude oil exports. Besides the fact that their call to President Obama would result in an unprecedented overreach of the executive branch’s powers, the petition fails to mention the reality behind our global energy landscape and the need for crude oil exports.
The crux of the petition hinges upon the notion that crude oil exports will hurt global climate change goals and our domestic environment through current oil extraction practices.
First to the issue of global climate change initiatives, the petition cites a report by the Center for American Progress (CAP) which argues that crude oil exports could lead to an increase in greenhouse emissions. However, CAP admits that “it is unclear the extent to which more exports of U.S. crude will encourage additional oil consumption and, therefore, add new carbon pollution to the atmosphere” rendering their statistics and claims questionable. And in reality, U.S. exports of crude oil are likely to replace exports from countries with weaker environmental controls than we have, thus reducing the growth of emissions globally.
Additionally, analysts such as Michael Levi and Varun Sivaram of the Council on Foreign Relations, find that the renewable energy tax credits promised in the same bill used to lift the crude exports ban, will reduce carbon emissions over the next five years more than allowing crude oil exports will increase them. Furthermore, investments into renewable energy also continue to climb despite what the petition claims. The “Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2015” by the United Nations Environment Programme recently found that green energy investments, particularly in solar and wind energy, have increased by 17% since 2014.
Even the oil and natural gas industry is taking positive steps to advance energy technologies that will reduce greenhouse emissions. This includes the $90 billion investments that the industry made between 2000 and 2014 into low-and zero- emissions technology.
The second argument the petition makes about domestic environmental damage from oil and gas production also hold little water. The so-called damages from oil exports through hydraulic fracturing has been rebuffed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. As recently as last year, the EPA concluded that they “did not find evidence that these mechanisms [hydraulic fracturing] have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.”
There is no question that climate change is a problem. But the facts also show that the economic and geopolitical benefits of oil exports are great, and that the foreign need for U.S. crude oil is unquestionable. They also confirm the measures that the oil and gas industry are taking in order to secure a more energy efficient future, while also balancing the demanding energy needs of today.
Voicing concerns about the future of the energy industry is fair and worthy to note, but it’s when some individuals and groups take these questions and turn them into reason to outright block an energy industry that reasonableness and reliability comes into play. U.S. crude oil exports provides an opportunity to deliver a secure source of energy to foreign allies, while also ensuring a standard of environmental safety is being met. As the United States moves into the global energy market, we must continue to think about an all of the above energy strategy and not get stuck debating on issues that has already been assessed in Congress. The necessary modern energy policy for the U.S. should consider both today’s needs as well as tomorrow’s.