Fossil fuels can fight poverty, boost environment — Perry

Source: Nathanial Gronewold, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, March 8, 2018

HOUSTON — Energy Secretary Rick Perry yesterday said fossil fuels have a role to play in fighting poverty and cleaning the environment.

“I thought that was the goal, to have economic development and a cleaner environment. It can happen with good policies, good technology,” Perry told reporters after a speech at the CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference. “It’s a fool’s errand to stand up and say, you know, by 2030 we’re going to be done with the fossil fuels somehow. And what? Go back to living like we were living in the late 1800s, or like I was in the 1940s, with no electricity?”

Perry challenged opponents of fossil fuels to travel to Africa and “look those people in the eye and say: Sorry, you can’t have electricity because we decided that fossil fuels are bad.”

In a wide-ranging speech and press conference, Perry also said proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports aren’t yet a done deal.

Perry’s talk hailed the energy renaissance in the United States that will likely make it the world’s largest producer of natural gas and crude oil.

He also championed the growth in U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas and said the Trump administration is fully supportive of further energy exports including coal, which he argued can help expand electricity access and alleviate poverty globally.

Perry cited a shipment of LNG this week from the Sabine Pass liquefaction plant in Louisiana, now bound for India. The Cove Point LNG export project also launched its first shipments from Maryland last week.

He said the nation’s new mantra is “energy realism” and contrasted it with the Carter era. Energy pessimism dominated the mood in Washington, D.C., Perry said, as the Carter administration predicted permanent domestic energy shortages and rising import dependence.

“The solution that they proposed was a bleak one,” said Perry, “draconian regulation of energy.”

He added that innovation in the energy industry has since disproved that view. “Those so-called realists couldn’t be more mistaken,” he added. “What we had was a shortage of imagination.”

To enhance U.S. energy security, Perry said the Trump administration envisions the creation of a second major energy and petrochemical hub to be built in Appalachia within the Marcellus and Utica shale regions. Such investments would also help to alleviate the chronic poverty in those states, he argued.

Perry criticized anyone pushing for investments only in renewable energy technologies as a means of tackling climate change, saying that wind and solar power alone won’t be nearly enough to deliver electricity to some 1 billion people in the world who don’t have regular access to it.

He also said he is open to the idea of revisiting the requirement that exports of energy to nations that don’t have free-trade agreements signed with the United States get prior DOE approval. Doing away with that requirement could effectively remove DOE discretion from such export projects.

Nothing is “sacrosanct,” he said. “It’s a good conversation.”

Tariffs

Perry said the resignation of Gary Cohn, President Trump’s chief economic adviser and a leading opponent of the proposed tariffs, doesn’t signal how the president will act on the potential tariffs that worry pipeline and energy companies.

“This is a good conversation to be happening,” said Perry when pressed on the tariffs question. “I’m not sure [the president] has made up his mind.”

Perry held the press conference after delivering remarks to the conference, an annual gathering of energy business and policy leaders.

Tariffs are being considered because of export subsidies and other trade practices that disadvantage U.S. manufacturers over foreign competitors, Perry said. He added that he favors strategic deployment of tariffs and other measures, and agrees with Trump that the mismanagement of trading relations by past administrations has led to massive and politically unpopular U.S. trade deficits.

He argued that America’s standing as a rising energy exporter puts it in a better position to negotiate with trading partners. But Perry acknowledged the possibility of nations retaliating against U.S. energy exports in response to any new import levies, calling it one of many potential “unintended consequences.”

“We need to be better negotiators,” Perry said. “We are in a unique place.”