Wednesday, April 27, 2022

OPINION:

Economic inflation, post-Covid global supply chain chaos, Russia‘s war in Ukraine, and the onslaught of Chinas effort to dominate markets have combined to bring on a global energy crisis. The question is how do we address these challenges and restore American energy independence while working to solve the climate challenge?

Too often, energy and climate policy is oversimplified to false choices: renewables versus fossils, economy versus environment, 100% emissions reductions globally versus doing nothing at all.


The reality is public policy must focus on making the global clean energy transition cheaper and faster. Rather than trying to make existing energy sources more expensive or off limits, we must pursue a market-driven agenda that makes clean energy more affordable.

On that front, Republicans are leading.

America is blessed with abundance of natural resources, from fossil fuels to critical rare earth minerals. More importantly, we’re blessed with an American spirit and passion to innovate. The clean energy development boom from 2005 to 2020 led to a decrease in U.S. emissions by more than 20% and made the U.S. a global leader in energy production. With continued smart policy — such as the Energy Act of 2020 crafted by a bipartisan Congress and signed into law by President Trump — we can lead on mitigating the global climate challenge while regaining our place as the global energy leader.

No matter your politics, we can all agree that growing global industrial activity increases carbon emissions, and emissions are changing the climate. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report painted a rather gloomy picture, but you don’t need to take their word for it. Farmers, ranchers, foresters and fishermen will all tell you the weather is different today than when they were younger, and their jobs have gotten harder. We hear the same thing from the oil and gas industry, and power companies. It’s clear its time to talk about solutions.

We cant damage our economy in our efforts. The good news is we dont have to because there are exciting opportunities that protect our workforce and unleash American resource independence.

The U.S. is in a unique position to lead on global clean energy action. For example, a recent life cycle analysis conducted by the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Energy Technology Laboratory on U.S. liquified natural gas (LNG) exports shows that American LNG can be up to 30% cleaner than Russian natural gas.

Nuclear energy is another area where America needs to lead. It is estimated that nearly 50 countries have markets for advanced nuclear power — a potential ~$360 billion per year market opportunity. There is an array of new and advanced American designs, but Russia currently accounts for the majority of reactor exports worldwide. Sanctions on Russia from many of those countries makes this an even bigger market opportunity, but the U.S. needs to move quickly.

On hydrogen, the U.S. would have both a cost and energy security advantage relative to our Russian, Middle Eastern, and Australian competitors, if we continue to innovate and begin exporting American hydrogen to places like Europe and Japan.

Last summer, House Republicans announced seven task forces to formulate policies they will pursue if they regain the majority. One, the Energy, Climate and Conservation Task Force has the enormous responsibility of tackling the global climate challenge, making America resource independent, and keeping energy affordable.

This summer, they’ll produce a package of policies to do just that. By leveraging American innovation, modernizing permitting, and bringing energy production and manufacturing back to the U.S., the task force can accelerate resource independence and ultimately lower prices.

As Americans, innovation and creating jobs are part of who we are. And thanks to innovation, America has already reduced our carbon dioxide emissions by more than any other country in the last 20 years.

But, what good is innovation if we cant build anything? Energy projects on average take 5-10 years to get a project permitted. This is precisely why America needs to modernize the federal permitting process for energy and infrastructure projects.

In 2020, the Trump administration modernized federal permitting under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the first major update to the law in 40 years. The 1970 law requires federal agencies to assess the environmental impact of major projects, and a lot of good has come from NEPA over the years. But, 1970 was a long time ago, and NEPA has not been modernized to keep pace with innovation. The changes from the previous administration were designed to produce more efficient reviews and more timely decisions, setting a two-year goal for completing reviews while upholding America’s strong environmental safeguards.

The Biden administration unfortunately reversed those reforms back to the burdensome, outdated version. That decision could undermine shared clean energy goals by making it harder to permit energy infrastructure, at a time when virtually everyone agrees we should be building cleaner faster.

Another goal conservatives are leading with is bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. American manufacturing is the cleanest in the world because of our high environmental standards, which, unsurprisingly, are not shared by China and Russia.

If we are to truly address surging energy prices, wean the world off of Russian gas, and beat China, we should tap into that American spirit and double, or even triple down on clean energy innovation. Thinking realistically, we arent going to replace fossil fuels with renewables overnight, and regulatory roadblocks in front of our own producers, developers, and innovators only slow clean energy progress.

We’re tremendously excited about the huge climate progress amongst conservative policymakers over the last several Congresses, and are optimistic that Republicans will unlock America’s opportunity to lead the world in clean energy innovation and production.

• Rich Powell is the CEO of ClearPath, a DC-based non-profit that develops and advances policies that accelerate breakthrough innovations that reduce emissions in the energy and industrial sectors.


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