Perry: U.S. won’t hang its head on climate policy

Source: Peter Behr, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, December 3, 2018

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said the U.S. owes the rest of the world no apologies for President Trump’s renunciation of the Paris climate agreement because of the nation’s success in reducing carbon dioxide emissions from its power sector.

“I think there’s a great story to be told out there in the face of people [saying] the U.S. stepped away and is not committed to the environment. We are. I suggest there is nobody in the world doing as much as the U.S. is,” Perry said.

“We don’t have anything to be apologizing to people for,” he said yesterday at a conference sponsored by the Consumer Energy Alliance.

The reduction in CO2 emissions from power plants was one of the few bright spots in a dire forecast of climate-related impacts spelled out in the fourth National Climate Assessment issued last week by administration scientists.

The report noted U.S. progress, citing projections that CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and other greenhouse gas sources would follow flat or declining trajectories over the coming decade, falling to 15 to 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Under President Obama, the U.S. had been targeting a substantially larger reduction — up to 28 percent by 2025, the climate report noted. Hopes of preventing catastrophic climate impacts by 2050 could require the complete conversion of the power sector to zero carbon sources, climate policy advocates say.

Perry hailed the U.S. shale gas bonanza as key to the reduction in U.S. carbon emissions from the power sector, as gas generation forced the shutdown of older, inefficient coal plants, which have twice the carbon output per megawatt of power as gas plants. That part of the energy success story isn’t a staple of Trump speeches, given his pledge to revive the coal industry.

But Perry did pick up the Trump “energy dominance” banner again yesterday, describing himself as a global salesman for U.S. liquefied natural gas shipments — gas that can reduce oil and coal consumption outside the U.S. and protect U.S. allies from dependence on Russian natural gas.

“My job is to sell LNG around the world,” he said.

The U.S. has jumped into global leadership in crude oil and natural gas supply. U.S. crude production hit 11.3 million barrels a day in August, more than double the annual average in 2012, and exports rose to a record 2.2 million barrels a day in June as a result of a decision by Congress in 2015 to remove most crude oil export restrictions.

Economists say it isn’t fair to target the U.S. for increasing carbon emissions because of its increased oil production, because other nations would have filled demand if the U.S. production hadn’t boomed. But U.S. crude has put downward pressure on global prices for crude oil, strengthening demand for the product.

Perry praised his department’s research and development work on clean energy technologies as another contribution to the environmental and climate progress, stepping away again from Trump’s position.

In addition to record natural gas production, “we also are making substantial strides in renewables, energy efficiency and battery storage technology,” he said. He pointed to Energy Information Administration projections that wind, solar and other non-hydropower renewable energy sources will provide 11 percent of the nation’s electric power supply next year. Solar generation is expected to climb 13 percent and wind by 4 percent next year.

Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory “are doing great work to lower the cost of solar cells,” he said.

Perry has delivered two of the Trump administration’s budget requests to Congress, calling for steep cutbacks in clean energy research. For fiscal 2018, the Trump budget sought $1.8 billion in energy R&D, compared with the prior year’s enactment of $4.2 billion. But Congress raised the figure to $4.9 billion, and Perry has taken pride in how the department’s laboratories are spending it.