This column is co-authored by Timothy Nash and Jason Hayes from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
Serious concerns have been voiced over the drastic changes in the direction of U.S. energy policy that have happened since January 2021. The current administration’s policies restrict the development of reliable and affordable domestic energy and have jeopardized American energy independence, as well as its economic health and security. But a soon-to-be-released report from the McNair Center at Northwood University and Michigan’s Mackinac Center explains that domestically produced natural gas is a wellspring of wealth and security for America and a foundation for the world’s energy future.
Mr. Biden’s anti-domestic energy policies have reduced the global supply of U.S. oil and natural gas and actively undermined American national security and that of America’s allies. Cutting American production bolsters the energy revenues of unfriendly governments and costs the U.S. economy tens of thousands of jobs, along with millions if not billions of dollars in lost wages and tax revenue.
While Biden talks a good line on environmental issues, his policies promote the development of dirtier energy from nations like Russia. American oil and natural gas are among the cleanest and most efficiently produced hydrocarbon resources in the world. Russian production has higher levels of both fugitive methane and CO2 emissions.
Recently, President Biden advanced his inaccurate and increasingly dangerous energy ideas during a November 4, 2022, campaign stop. He argued, “We’re now changing the nature of the life of a battery. Folks, it is now cheaper to generate electricity from wind and solar than it is from coal and oil; literally cheaper. We're going to be shutting these plants down all across America and having wind and solar. So, it’s going to become a wind generation. And all they’re doing is - is going to save them a hell of a lot of money.”
But the following day West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin harshly critiqued the president’s claim. He noted that, “President Biden’s comments are not only outrageous and divorced from reality they ignore the severe economic pain the American people are feeling because of rising energy costs. Comments like these are the reason the American people are losing trust in President Biden and instead believe he does not understand the need to have an all-in energy policy that would keep our nation totally energy independent and secure.”
Such a stark disagreement between two senior Democrats underscores the need for an open review of the current state of U.S. energy. To make that review easier, there are two key reasons why natural gas should be at the forefront of future U.S. energy policy.
First, American energy policy should ensure a secure future for the United States and our allies.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations (8/11/22), the U.S. has been the world’s top producer of natural gas since 2011, when it overtook Russia, and it has been a net exporter since 2017.
According to the U.S. Energy Administration (12/8/21) in 2018, the U.S. surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s top producer of natural gas AND oil largely because of the U.S. shale revolution.
The U.S. was a total petroleum net exporter in 2020 and 2021 (U.S. Energy Administration, 4/21/22).
In 2022, the U.S. will be the largest exporter of LNG by volume in the world (Center for Liquified Natural Gas, 3/14/22).
As of 2022, we have shipped U.S. LNG to over 35 countries around the globe (Center for Liquified Natural Gas, 3/14/22).
According to the Center for Liquid Natural Gas, “Secure, reliable U.S. Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is playing a critical role in stabilizing global energy markets, especially those in Europe.” Center for Liquified Natural Gas, 3/14/22.
Russia is the largest natural gas importer to Europe (U.S. Energy Administration, 2/11/22).
The EU gets about 40% of its natural gas imports from Russia (Germany led with over 67% in 2020, followed by Italy at nearly 50% - The Wall Street Journal, 3/13/22).
Second, an abundance of American energy for Our Economic Future
Natural gas powers about 40% of U.S. electricity generation, with known supplies able to power the nation for nearly a century – potentially longer (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 3/2022).
From 2004 to 2019, U.S. natural gas reserves increased more than 148 percent (Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, Accessed 3/14/22).
The U.S. oil and natural gas industry supports nearly 11 million American jobs (American Petroleum Institute, 4/4/22).
Besides energy, natural gas provides the base ingredient for products like plastic, chemicals, fertilizer, anti-freeze, fabrics and much more (“Uses In Industry,” NaturalGas.org, 9/20/13; “Natural gas explained,” U.S. Energy Information Administration, 5/24/22).
Despite tens of billions in subsidies, wind and solar still provide only about 12% of total U.S. electricity generation (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 3/4/22).
Replacing traditional energy sources with solar power would require 57,048 square miles of land—about the size of New York and Vermont—for 18.8 billion solar panels. Replacing traditional energy sources with wind power would require 2.12 million turbines on 500,682 square miles of land—an area equivalent to Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, and much of West Virginia (The Heartland Institute, 12/19).
Natural gas is abundant, efficient, and exceptionally clean. How clean? Goldman Sachs reported in April that if the U.S. quadrupled its Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) capacity it would, collectively, have the same effect on reducing carbon emissions as:
Electrifying every U.S. passenger vehicle
Powering every home in America with rooftop solar and backup battery packs
Adding 54,000 industrial scale windmills, doubling U.S. wind capacity
Even more astounding, this move would replace the need for all the coal produced globally. The Goldman Sachs study suggests that American energy policy over the last 20 years has benefitted our economy, the environment, and the security of the United States. Perhaps Senator Manchin and President Biden should read the studies we’ve cited together, before they attempt to reshape American energy policy.
Dr. Timothy G. Nash is director of the McNair Center for the Advancement of Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at Northwood University. Jason Hayes is director of environmental policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.