John Kerry vs. Natural Gas
By Allen Brooks — May 6, 2022
“By issuing a ‘death sentence’ for natural gas and its required infrastructure investments, John Kerry is hobbling the industry’s growth. In turn, it will hurt those who have limited or no access to power. It will make the efforts of European countries to get out from under the dominance of Russian fossil fuels, a goal of the Biden administration, even more difficult.”
John Kerry, President Joe Biden’s climate envoy, is the latest government official to deliver conflicting messages about energy.
As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, in January, Kerry told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that he could fathom keeping natural gas in a cleaner energy mix as a “bridge fuel” from traditional fossil fuels to a renewables-heavy future. He made some other points that have come back to bite him. He told the meeting, “If you can capture 100% [of emissions] and it makes it affordable, that’s wonderful. But we’re not doing that.”
In his mind, carbon capture is the technology the natural gas industry needs to be investing in, which it is, but we guess maybe Kerry does not know, or it is not fast enough for him. Kerry’s message to the Chamber of Commerce members was:
Let me be factual, above all, but let me also be blunt and hopefully motivating. We’re in trouble, I hope everybody understands that. Not trouble we can’t get out of, but we’re not on a good track.
What he really wants is more renewable energy investments. He bemoaned the lack of investment, saying: “Many countries — most countries — have the ability to deploy very significant additional amounts of renewables, and they’re not doing it.”
Do economics or energy security have anything to do with the slow pace of renewable energy? The International Energy Agency (IEA) projects renewables accounting for 90% of new power capacity additions globally from 2022 onward. Thus, when Kerry threatened a “death sentence” for natural gas, it raised questions about what he really wants. According to Kerry, in comments to Bloomberg TV:
We have to put the industry on notice: You’ve got six years, eight years, no more than 10 years or so, within which you’ve got to come up with a means by which you’re going to capture [emissions], and if you’re not capturing, then we have to deploy alternative sources of energy.
Kerry went on to state: “No one should make it easy for the gas interest to be building out 30- to 40-year infrastructure, which we’re then stuck with, and you know the fight will be ‘well we can’t close these because of the employment, because of the investors, et cetera.’”
So, should we only be building natural gas infrastructure with a life of 10-years or less? Lots of luck convincing people there is a financial case for such investments.
The industry and academic research are advancing carbon capture technology. However, most of the new efforts are exploratory, as the technology needs to be economically and technically feasible before corporations will invest billions of dollars. Proving the technology will likely not be on a pace or scale Kerry says is necessary, but what does Kerry know about technological trends?
Meanwhile, the administration that employs him is actively working to limit the growth opportunities for traditional fossil fuels. By issuing a ‘death sentence’ for natural gas and its required infrastructure investments, John Kerry is hobbling the industry’s growth. In turn, it will hurt those who have limited or no access to power. It will make the efforts of European countries to get out from under the dominance of Russian fossil fuels, a goal of the Biden administration, even more difficult.
Here is some advice: Think before you speak. The Biden administration seems to have a serious shortcoming in mastering this admonition.
This week, John Kerry backtracked the climate goal set by the Paris Climate Accord. Instead of 1.5C by 2050, the new goal is 1.8C by 2100. As reported by E&E News:
For much of last year, climate envoy John Kerry had one number on his mind: 1.5 degrees Celsius. That’s the amount of warming scientists say the world must not surpass if it hopes to prevent dangerous and irreversible climate impacts. But as new realities set in and hoped-for ambition fails to materialize in the U.S. and abroad, Kerry is scaling back.
The new talk?
“We want to stay on that accessible target of 1.8 degrees, and the only way to do it is to fully implement the promises that have been made,” Kerry said during a speech at an electric industry forum. His comments signaled a departure from U.S. messaging under President Joe Biden and raised concern among some foreign officials and climate advocates that the White House is injecting uncertainty into international deliberations on climate change.
Do not expect this to be the last word regarding the means and the ends of U.S. and global climate policy.